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FROM THE SUPERINTENDENT
MENAHGA BUILDING BOND 2017 -- ANSWERING YOUR QUESTIONS
If you need additional information, please contact Kevin Wellen, Superintendent at email@example.com or call at 218-564-4141 (ext. 4). To see the plan and find out much more about the referendum by going to the school website www.menahga.k12.mn.us
Q: WHY DOES MENAHGA NEED TO ADD CLASSROOMS AND OTHER EDUCATION SPACE?
Attendance at the Menahga school building went from 750 students six years ago to over 1000 this year. Here are some examples of how that is affecting the way we educate:
In comparison, we currently have more students than Wadena-Deer Creek.
Q: WILL THIS BUILDING HANDLE THE FUTURE GROWTH IN THE DISTRICT?
We believe this plan is the right size for our current student population and our projected growth for the next 10 years. We have included three flex classrooms that will be used as enrollment continues to increase.
If the plan is approved, we would be able to teach up to 100 students at a grade level and maintain effective class sizes.
Q: WILL THE BUILDING PROJECT IMPROVE CLASSROOM EDUCATION?
Most instructional programs from Kindergarten to Grade 12 will see improved classrooms spaces. In addition, our technical education will improve through a partnership with Central Lakes College. Our current music programs will have their own dedicated classrooms. Finally, support services such as food service will be improved, which will help improve the daily experience for all students.
Q: SINCE WE WILL HAVE A SECOND FLOOR, DO YOU NEED AN ELEVATOR?
Yes, it is a federal requirement. On drawings of the plan at www.menahga.k12.mn.us, it is labeled “E”, right behind the high school office and is included in the cost of the referendum.
Q: IS THERE A POOL AND WALKING TRACK IN THE PLAN?
No, these have never been a part of the plan.
Q: WE HAVE VOTED BEFORE -- WHAT IS DIFFERENT ABOUT THIS REFERENDUM?
Menahga School District continues to experience increasing enrollment, a rarity in a rural Minnesota district. In fact, since the last referendum votes in 2010, our student population has increased by 33%.
A second difference from 2010 is that state equalization aid is increasing, which will pay for a higher percentage of the costs of construction than in the past. For Menahga, this amount will equal 50 percent of the cost of the school improvements.
Q: WHY IS THE DISTRICT DOING A MAIL BALLOT?
The School Board felt it would give every voter the opportunity to vote as easily as possible.
Q: CAN I STILL VOTE IN PERSON?
Yes, you can drop your ballot off at the school or you can walk in May 9th between 7:00 A.M. and 8:00 P.M. but the only polling place will be at the school.
Q: HOW CAN MY VOTE BE PRIVATE IF I HAVE TO SIGN THE ENVELOPE?
The signature is to show that you are a registered voter and to verify that you only voted once. Your ballot will be placed in a “privacy envelope” inside of the signed envelope and will be anonymous once those things have been verified.
Q: HOW DOES OPEN ENROLLMENT WORK?
State law allows parents to choose the district they wish to have their students attend, and requires every school district to create an open enrollment policy to accept students from other districts. Students have open enrolled in Menahga for more than 20 years, and we reached 200 open-enrolled students ten years ago. For several years, we have capped the open enrollment because we are full.
Q: DO MORE OPEN ENROLLMENT STUDENTS IMPACT OUR SCHOOL DISTRICT’S BUDGET?
Having these students allows us to offer more programs because they bring their share of state payments for classroom education with them – and state money is the largest source of our education funding. For example, this year the state aid for our open-enrolled students is $2,400,000. This is 23% of our budget. If they were not here, we would have to lay off many teachers and staff and eliminate programs, causing a massive reduction in opportunities for the students who live in the Menahga School District.
Q: CAN WE JUST SEND THE OPEN ENROLLED STUDENTS BACK TO THEIR HOME DISTRICT TO ADDRESS OUR SPACE ISSUE?
No, once a student is in our system, we are required by law to allow them to graduate here. We have capped open enrollment over the past several years to manage space issue. Having these students allows us to offer more programs because they bring their share of state payments for our education funding.
Q: WILL THE FAMILIES OF OPEN ENROLLED STUDENTS PROVIDE MONEY FOR THE BUILDING BONDS?
Minnesota law dictates that property owners that live in the district pay the local part of the building bond, so open enrollment parents won’t pay property taxes towards the bond. They will, however, pay for any bonds in the district where their home is located, even though they don’t use those schools.
However, open enrolled students will contribute to this plan’s funding in two ways. First, the district’s fund balance, which the school board is using to lower the tax burden of the plan, was generated by state education funding. Open-enrolled students bring this revenue with them every year they are enrolled here. Second, the state aid for this plan is based on the number of students who attend our schools. Over the life of this bond, it is estimated that the state equalization aid assigned to open-enrolled students will reach $2,000,000.
Q: WILL THE STATE PAY ANY AMOUNT TOWARD THE BUILDING IMPROVEMENTS?
If both questions pass, the state will pay for just over 50% using equalization aid. This means we will get nearly $35 million in building improvements and additional equipment for bond payments on about $17.5 million.
Q: HOW CAN I FIND OUT WHAT MY TAX INCREASE WILL BE IF THE REFERENDUM PASSES?
There is a calculator on the school district webpage where you can input the value of your home (or business) and learn what the tax increase will be. If you have a farm, because of all of the different variables that impact your taxes, please contact Ehlers directly and they will compute your new tax. Click on this link to take you there: http://www.ehlers-inc.com/custom/taxinformation/Menahga/
Q: IS IT TRUE THAT THE SCHOOL BOARD WILL PAY OFF SOME EXISTING DEBT IF THE BOND REFERENDUM PASSES?
Yes, we currently have $1,700,000 in debt that local taxpayers are paying off. If the first question is passed, we will use our fund balance to pay this off in full and save taxpayers over $255,000 in interest payments by retiring the debt.
Q: WILL LOCAL TAXPAYERS SEE AN IMMEDIATE TAX INCREASE FROM PASSING THE SECOND QUESTION?
The state will make the debt payments for us on 60 percent of this amount, as part of the matching equalization aid. The school board has decided to use the money in our fund balance to pay the remaining 40 percent of debt payments for the next ten years ($99,400 per year). As a result, local taxpayers will not see an immediate increase from the second question.
Q: DO ALL SCHOOL DISTRICTS HAVE A FUND BALANCE THAT ALLOWS THEM TO PAY OFF DEBT?
The Menahga School District has been careful with our annual budget, in part so we have financing options available when residents consider a referendum. If the referendum passes, the pressure to save money for building projects will ease, allowing us to spend some of the fund balance to manage the tax burden and invest in more educating students.
Q: WHY DON’T WE JUST USE SOME OF THE MONEY IN OUR FUND BALANCE TO PAY FOR PART OF THE BUILDING?
Just like a family, a school district will keep a fund balance to prepare for emergencies and avoid taking on short-term debt for regular expenses. Menahga Schools has built a healthy fund balance so we can pay for some projects in cash. However, it is not enough to pay for the school project.
It makes more sense to bond for the school project and use the fund balance for other purposes. For example, the state will not provide 50 percent matching funds if we use our fund balance. So if the bond referendum passes, we will use some of the fund balance to add staff like cooks and custodians and pay our higher energy and cleaning costs for our larger building. The school board also intends to use the fund balance to reduce the taxes on the second ballot question as described in the next question.
If the bond referendum fails, we will need to take care of some space needs with the fund balance, but we will not receive any state match.
Q: SO, CAN YOU SUMMARIZE HOW THE FINANCING WORKS FOR THIS PLAN?
On May 9, voters will consider two ballot questions -- $29.72 million and $5 million. The second ballot question will be fully funded by the state equalization aid or the district’s fund balance. The first question will result in a tax increase, but local taxpayers will pay only 50 cents on the dollar, due to state equalizations aid and a school board decision to pay off another bond immediately.
Voters will decide whether to support this plan on May 9th.
Please Vote On May 9th!
Have a Great Day!
Menahaga Public Schools