Tuesday referendum vote could decide future of AlBrook schoolThe future of AlBrook and the six other schools in Independent School District 2142 hangs in the fate of a special election next Tuesday.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
The future of AlBrook and the six other schools in Independent School District 2142 hangs in the fate of a special election next Tuesday.
On Dec. 8, residents of ISD 2142 will vote on whether to authorize the district to issue $78,800,000 in school building bonds. The funds would finance the construction and equipping of two new schools – one to serve Alborn-Brookston-Cotton-Meadowlands area and one to serve the Cook and Orr areas – as well as the remodeling and renovation of the Cherry, Babbitt and Tower-Soudan schools.
According to AlBrook Principal Kristi Berlin, the location proposed for a consolidated school servicing the southern area of the district is on land along County Road 47 (Swan Lake Road), about a quarter mile outside of Alborn.
If passed, the referendum would increase property taxes in the district for the next 20 years, beginning with taxes payable in 2010.
The vote comes in the face of declining enrollments, state funding cuts and three failed district operating levies in recent years, as well as on the heels of nearly a year and a half of in-depth studies, public meetings and long-range planning sessions.
A consulting team comprised of Johnson Controls and Architectural Resources began work in April 2008 to assist the district with its long-term planning, hosting nine small group meetings with parents, business leaders, principals and community members to gather input on a long-term vision for the struggling district.
Despite the millions of dollars of spending cuts that have already been made by the sizeable district – at 4,200 square miles, it’s the state’s largest – Business Manager Kim Johnson reported the district will soon be out of reserve funds, according to the district’s Web site.
Without the bond funding necessary to go ahead with a restructuring plan to consolidate schools within the district, Johnson said each school would have to trim nearly $600,000 from its budget in order to keep all seven schools open in the future. Given the fact the schools have already cut back dramatically, that would have to come through further reducing program offerings, cutting additional teachers, closing several schools or a combination of these approaches. Johnson pointed out that with labor accounting for 75 percent of the district’s expenses, the surest way to reduce spending would be to close schools.
Board Chair Robert Larson commented that having to resort to these types of options would “not be good for young people and our entire region,” indicating such cutbacks could cause parents to open enroll their children elsewhere.
The district’s school board met Sept. 9 in a study session to consider the various consequences and options for the district if voters do not pass a bond referendum this fall. According to the meeting minutes, after in-depth discussions about programming cuts, the group concluded the district would need to immediately begin closing schools, with eventual district dissolution “an inevitable consequence.”
District residents who wish to determine the impact of the referendum on their property taxes can call the Ehler’s Property Tax Hotline, 1-800-552-1171, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and ask to speak to a member of the Education Team. They can also send an e-mail message to email@example.com and include their name and a daytime phone number in case further information is needed. Ehler’s and Associates Inc. is the school district’s financial advisors.
Polls during next Tuesday’s special election will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. The combined polling place is located at AlBrook School, 7427 Seville Rd., Saginaw, the city of Brookston as well as Alborn, Arrowhead, Brevator, Culver, Industrial, Ness, New Independence and Stoney Brook townships.
For additional information, contact Superintendent Charles Rick at 218-749-8130.