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LETTER: Open enrollment causes burden to Wrenshall taxpayers

To the Editor:

On April 18, Wrenshall School District taxpayers will vote on a $12.5 million school referendum. Wrenshall school administration and the Wrenshall School Board cite student enrollment growth as one of the main reasons supporting the proposed referendum.

Wrenshall school administration continues to inform the community that the school is overcrowded. But if the school is overcrowded, why does the school continue to take in new students? Does overcrowding impact student learning? Does overcrowding create unsafe conditions in the school facility? If this condition exists (overcrowding), doesn't the school have a responsibility to develop and apply a student enrollment cap?

It is a fact that almost 40 percent of the current student enrollment in the Wrenshall School are open-enrolled students who live in other property tax districts. According to school administration and the school board, the remedy to this self-imposed overcrowding is to renovate some existing structures and build a new, larger $12.5 million facility. Would it make more sense to cap the number of open-enrolled students coming into the school?

This raises an important question: Does this excessive plan meet the needs of our community and, if so, how is growth being defined? The answer is that open-enrolled students are directly responsible for the growth in our school — and because of this artificial growth we are being asked to carry the tax burden.

If approved Wrenshall School District taxpayers would see dramatic increases in their property taxes. Increased amounts would vary based on the assessed value of our property. For example, market values ranging from $200,000 to $250,000 would see tax increases from $387 to $505 per year.

Residents living outside the Wrenshall School District having students enrolling into Wrenshall School would not have their property taxes increased, nor would they share any of the costs created by the referendum if passed. Wrenshall School District taxpayers would also face future increased property taxes to pay for any additional personnel or related operational costs.

I believe some basic questions, concerns of fairness, and priorities need to be carefully weighed before we place any more tax burdens on our community. The school needs to refine its vision and mission. Whose needs are being met with this proposed plan? Is it fair that Wrenshall School District taxpayers carry the burden of taxes? And isn't our first priority to ensure the safe and orderly education of students in our own district?

Michael Rabideaux, Wrenshall