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Vote 'no' on Carlton referendum

On Thursday, June 15, at 6:30 p.m., a meeting will be held at the Public House in Carlton (next to the Streetcar) to discuss topics related to the upcoming Carlton School bond referendum. The topic of consolidation will also be discussed.

The real question being asked of the voters is "do you want to pay more, and get less?" It means that if we are going to be asked to invest in education, we want to be shown that we are getting the best value for our investment. We are not a wealthy community, so if we are going to make a public investment, there has to be a high probability that the investment will yield the intended result. "Build it and they will come" is not an investment strategy. It is speculation, and speculation is incredibly risky and completely unnecessary in this particular case.

Why does consolidation keep coming up? Well, there is a reason that many small communities have merged their school districts and that is because it tends to make sense.

I will tell you that I have personally spoken to both the Wrenshall and Carlton school boards. In January, I requested a meeting with the Wrenshall board. They invited me to engage them in a two-way conversation. I was very impressed by this and I respect them for taking the time to talk to me in a public forum. The Wrenshall district passed a formal resolution stating they would consolidate with the Carlton district under two different scenarios, including an elementary school in Carlton. They stepped up.

Those making arguments in favor of a new school seem to be impervious to the financial burdens that will befall our residents, businesses and farmers. They say things like, "The taxes are going up anyway," or "Look at this tax relief program for some people." I could see the argument for building a school in a different light if it were the only school in the county, but it is one of nine. Carlton schools are within 5 miles of Esko, 4 miles of Cloquet, and 3 miles of Wrenshall. In total, there are seven public school districts, one tribal school and one parochial school in a county with 36,000 residents. Since the numbers don't even come close to supporting a new school, and basic economic fundamentals do not seem to apply, I can only surmise that nostalgia and emotion are driving the effort to build a new school. This would, more or less, loosely justify the absence of logic in the referendum request.

It is going to take the community to rise up and demand that it be made so. On Aug. 8, residents of the Carlton school district will be asked to vote on a new school for $23.6 million, and $3.3 million to construct and improve an auditorium, athletic spaces and make site improvements. If you choose to vote "no" on both of these questions, the Carlton school board will be asked, once again, to come to the table to consolidate with Wrenshall. There is one Carlton school board member who is in favor of consolidating now. Three more are needed to close this chapter of the "Little Brown Jug" and do what is best for the students, teachers and taxpayers. Who will it be that will step up and get this historic task done? Don't be afraid to let your elected school board members know how you feel, for better or worse. You voted for these board members. Now you need to react to what they are trying to do, or you must live with the consequences of their decisions.

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