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Projects, tax impact explored

SPOONER – The ad hoc committee studying the Spooner School District's three school buildings to narrow down what repairs and upgrades should be put onto a referendum in April has come up with a $14.8 million recommendation plus a handful of other potential projects for the school board to consider.

If all of the projects were to be completed, including replacing the 60-plus-year-old middle school with a new one at the high school, the cost

could total $37.3 million.

The projected tax impacts prepared before the committee finalized its recommendations showed that with a $16 million referendum, taxpayers could pay approximately $2.33 a month per $100,000 fair market value for their property during the 20-year payback period, while at the higher end, a $34 million referendum, the cost would be $7.08 per month per $100,000 valuation.

Committee member and school board member Paul Johnson compared the $7.08 to the price of a fast-food hamburger.

"We all live in work in this community," said school board and committee member Deb Olson. "Our kids go to school here." She said "it's very hard to put a price tag on giving your kids the best education possible," on them getting "a great education in a wonderful building with great teachers, a great staff."

Nearly all of the projects grew out of the facilities study done in 2016. In reviewing the deficiencies, and suggesting other potential improvements, the Referendum Facilities Committee emphasized projects that improve the schools' safety and security (such as creating a secure vestibule at each school to better control the public's physical access to the buildings) but also approved projects ranging from replacing worn out or defective equipment and building components to remodeling to adding classrooms to updating wiring, roofing, and heating and ventilation.

The committee repeatedly weighed musthaves and nice-to-haves, trying to balance need, cost, whether the items should be in the regular budget or a referendum, and what the public may be likely to actually support through a referendum.

They also were cognizant that the state law now mandates that referendums be held only once every two years, with just two questions on the ballot. With that in mind and to better gauge what the taxpayers would approve, the school board on Monday night approved hiring School Perceptions out of Slinger (Wisconsin) to conduct a survey of the taxpayers this fall.

The committee's recommendations will go to the school board's Committee of the Whole on July 1, and the board will work with School Perceptions to develop the survey.

Middle school

Building a new middle school initially was not listed as a referendum proposal, but it was suggested through the committee as it reviewed nearly $8 million in projects there, including demolishing the structurally unsound small gym, making multiple repairs and upgrades, and creating a secure entrance.

Committee member Pat Shifferd said she believed that eventually the voters would agree to a new school. "Question is, when would they agree to face the inevitable and that that 60-year-old building [it] is time to have a different life or none?

"So if that decision, or that realization by the community were two years from now or five years from now, then we ought to put as little as possible to keep this current school safe," she said. "If it's not for 20 years, then by God, we gotta fix it up,

If the money is going to be put into the school, said Superintendent David Aslyn, then it needs to run "somewhere there about 10 years on the short end."

All of the buildings are safe, he emphasized, but the middle school, being a multi-story structure, does present some challenges, such as not being able to evacuate through a window onto the lawn if need be.

"Infrastructure-wise," Aslyn said, "it needs some upgrades, but it's still fundamentally a pretty solid building. And then there's some unknowns. Here, you can't know if the water and sewer lines are going to go bad next winter with the frost, you just can't know. So you make best guess."

The list of potential referendum projects does not include everything that the school needs or would be a benefit to it, he said, but it hits the high points, and it would make the school a usable facility for some time in the future."

"I've been considering a lot what would happen if we were to put a middle school up here somewhere," middle school principal Michelle Kabdi said. "And I know that Antholz Gym is really important to a lot of people in the community. There's a lot of nostalgia, a lot of memories. And so I feel like the support from the community might be there to repair that and have it be tournament-ready. We also put 9 million into that building 10 years ago. And so if we were to keep that new part, the entrance, the offices, renovate the gym, perhaps keep that fifth-grade wing, because it's in the best shape."

She suggested that perhaps the three floors that are not in as good a shape could be eliminated and the remaining structure becomes a hub for the after-school program and the alternative school is moved from the former vocational building, which is in "rough shape," to the building.

"I don't know if any of it's feasible, or if it's anything that the community would support," she said. "It's just an idea. We could pave some of that and take care of some of the parking issues, have another additional gym space available in the district as well."

A question that came up often was whether some of the projects at the three schools could be added to the regular budget as maintenance items, such as replacing water heaters at the high school ($125,000) or replacing windows at the middle school ($272,000).

Aslyn responded that the next fiscal year that begins July 1 is expected to be the district's first balanced budget in eight years. He said that business manager Shannon Grindell told him that typically the amount set aside annually for projects is $100,000, which usually covers two projects – which would leave the majority of the proposed referendum listings outside the scope of the budget.

Kali Fizel suggested the district should consider how to best attract and retain students.

"I think we also need to look at the schools around us, though, who have gone to referendum and passed referendums and are improving their facilities, and they're going to be drawing families and students in, and if we don't keep up, we're going to lose students," she said. "Our enrollment is dropping right now. We need to do something to stop that. And if we let our facilities go, our families are going to go too. So at some point in time, we need to compete on that level. And we're not right now."

Districts are literally competing for students and families, she said.

Tribe's incumbents replaced

HERTEL– Following a report by the National Indian Gaming Commission which named members of the St. Croix Tribal Council for improper spending of casino gaming revenue, the St. Croix Chippewa Tribe, voting in a June 8 election, replaced five council members.

Voted out of office by member of the St. Croix Tribe were incumbent Tribal Chairman Lewis Taylor, longtime council member Elmer "Jay Emery. Between the two men there was approximately 50 years of experience on the Tribal Council.

Also defeated by the voters were incumbents Crystal Peterson and Joyce Long. The only incumbent returned to office, and getting the most

votes from the Round Lake Community, was Susan Lowe.

In the Sand Lake Community, Taylor and Emery were replaced by Francis Songetay and Bill Reynolds. Bev Benjamin will replace Crystal Peterson and represent Danbury. Representing Maple Plain and replacing Joyce Long will be Thomas Fowler.

The new St. Croix Tribal Chairman is expected to be elected this week.

Long ago graduate?
Helpful advice still holds true

The graduations are done, the euphoria of moving into life's next adventure morphed into something more simmering than flaming.

And all that advice dispensed at the ceremonies? Perhaps remembered, perhaps forgotten in the blur of the celebration.

Life can blur wisdom once known, and whether one's graduation was a month ago or decades (eons) ago, sometimes it pays to be reminded of the life's possibilities, of each person's internal grit, of how obstacles can be overcome, of what is important in the daily rush of living.

So, here are some words of wisdom for every once-graduate (and those who did not graduate), from speakers and writers at the Washburn County Alternative High School graduation.

From Marnie Housel

"This is the first rung of the ladder of success, keep climbing, keep excelling, keep pushing forward. Still, look around and see if there's another that you can assist or something you can make better. You see, that's the entire point of all this, to make things better.

"What you do, what you become, who you meet, how you touch them, does matter. There are no do-overs in life. Make the most of what you do, and make it better, a lot. With this in mind, show charity to others who are not as fortunate as you are or have not have had the help you ever received. Show others what you're made of. Exemplify perseverance.

"It matters. This matters a lot. Perseverance matters. Yes, perseverance matters. You matter, it all matters. And don't be afraid to pay forward something. Give of yourself completely. Give what is in your mind, in your heart. And don't be afraid to persevere. Yes, persevere. This is a concept that creates winners, champions. Muddle through the obstacles."

From Melissa Franson

"Ladies and gentlemen, I can't promise you the road from here on out will be easy. Life is going to knock you down. People are going to break your heart. You're going to make mistakes, and you're going to have to say some really hard goodbyes. When this happens, experience it.

"Scream cry, go for a run, find a gym that has a punching bag, take a nap, do what you have to do, but don't give up. If you hear nothing else tonight, don't give up. Recognize that

the same opportunities that led you to the stage tonight are still within. Recognize that with each setback, there is opportunity, opportunity for something to be proud of.

From the teachers

Most people who don't know you may make assumptions about you. They may think you are just teenagers, who are self-obsessed, hormone driven and ungrateful. They don't know the real you. They don't see what we see. They have no clue about "kids these days." The truth is: You are fantastic human beings. You are thoughtful, caring, funny and sensitive. This is what we see:

We see you every day as you walk into our school. You smile and say hello and find your seat. Your eyes are often tired and sometimes unkempt, but you are here. Promise you will continue to prioritize what is important.

We see you being kind to other students who may be different because you know what it feels like to be excluded. Promise to continue to be kind.

We see you struggle to find your place, to be yourself, and to feel accepted. Promise you will always be yourself.

We see you taking risks and being vulnerable. This will be critical as you face the challenges ahead. Promise you will not stop being brave.

We see you when you are proud of yourself. You will continue to do great things. Promise you will always be your own cheerleader.

We see you feeling overwhelmed as we reach the end of your schooling, balancing credits, family, and friends. Despite the pressure, promise you will keep working hard.

We see you when you fail. You always get back up and when you know better, you do better. Promise to remember everything is practice.

We will see you confidently walk across the stage tonight, in your cap and gown. We are so proud and joyful for you but this is the goodbye we dread. Promise you will go out in the world and be awesome.


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