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LETTER: Vote 'no' to new Carlton school for many reasons

To the Editor:

Attending Carlton School Board meeting June 12, I found the information interesting, but have some questions and suggestions for the entire community to consider.

People advocate for a new facility for many reasons. The buildings are old, worn and outdated. A single site is efficient, modern and offer greater opportunities.

But a building bond referendum comes down to some important facts:

• Enrollment isn't increasing, but decreasing.

• The "Targeted Homestead Property Tax Refund" is for one year and the "Circuit Breaker" refund isn't new to eligible homesteaded property owners.

• The proposed budget for next year operates in a deficit that includes excess operating levy referendum and doesn't include potentially large liabilities.

• If new course offerings are introduced with a new school, will we have the operating capital to support them?

• Salary increases?

• If we build it, will they come?

Board members say dissolution and consolidation is off the table. Information on "Embracing our Future" describes a nice timeline of consolidation talk, but there's a big lapse from March 2015 to April 2016. Reading the Pine Journal in that time period, consolidation talks were going pretty well. Information is vague why talks failed. What are the specifics? During discussion of, "If referendum does not pass," other members said all talk was "hypothetical" and it didn't matter. When discussion "If referendum passes," suddenly things weren't hypothetical and labor contract agreements, local contractors, were discussed.

We'll pay school taxes, but what's too much? Has Ehlers done a feasibility study on merging with Cloquet?

The board wants solutions from the 'No' voters with referendum failure.

Vote 'No' for the referendum, merge with Cloquet for public school district, seek a charter or private school for those that don't want fiscally responsible financing by Carlton taxpayers.

I'm for a strong community in Carlton, but a new school shouldn't be built before population and enrollment justify the expense. Hermantown built up over time along with schools. Less expensive solutions are available.

Ken Witte