Albertville’s Towne Lakes and Hunter’s Pass neighborhoods got organized and made a strong effort over the past 18 months to change district boundaries so that all of Albertville could be part of the St. Michael-Albertville school district. But, despite their efforts, the STMA school district announced last Monday evening that a deal could not be reached between themselves and District 728 (Elk River area school district) at this time.
The two Albertville neighborhoods fall within district 728’s boundaries since they are north of interstate 94. Residents of these neighborhoods created a group called Uniting STMA, which worked to start talks between the Elk River district and STMA to see if they could agree to a land swap, where the Elk River district would trade their Albertville neighborhoods in exchange for a parcel of undeveloped land in the STMA district. However, the potential property value of the undeveloped land is unknown at this time, which made the two parties uneasy about using it in the swap.
Foucault said they discussed the issue at length at five school board meetings, met with Uniting STMA three times and had five different exchanges with superintendents from the Elk River school district.
“I believe we did quite a bit of collaboration and discussion over the past 17 months,” Foucault said.
She said the decision came to a head Sept. 29, when Foucault brought the district’s finance director and other STMA district staff to meet with District 728 leaders.
“In the end, we really felt it’s not to either district’s benefit at this time,” she said. “And I want to stress ‘at this time,’ because right now we have developed land such as Towne Lakes and Hunter’s Pass, and we have chunks of undeveloped STMA land. We don’t know the property values and market values of that undeveloped land will be, and until we know it’s hard to speculate.”
With that, Foucault said she and the District 728 Superintendent recommend putting the issue to rest until they have more information about the currently undeveloped land.
Board Member Input
Board member Hollee Saville said one consideration that’s not often mentioned is that residents who are part of a school district boundary switch must continue to pay taxes toward any existing operating levies and bonds from their former school district. District 728 recently passed a bond that funded the construction of the new E-8 school in Otsego and other projects.
Board member Jeff Lindquist said he felt the school board and school district did their due diligence to explore the boundary change option, and board chair Drew Scherber called the process an ‘uphill battle.’ The board agreed to table the issue for the time being and said it would likely be an extended period of time before any new developments arise that could result in reconsidering district boundaries.
Members of the Uniting STMA group did not respond to requests for comment.