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On November 5, the West Central Area (WCA) school district voters will cast a yes or no vote on a $12.2 million building bond request that will relocate students from South Elementary School in Kensington (pictured) and North Elementary School in Elbow Lake to Barrett. The addition would result in centralizing all WCA students in one location and the closing of elementary schools in Kensington and Elbow Lake. (Amy Chaffins/Echo Press)

Fate of Kensington school hangs on November 5 vote

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Fate of Kensington school hangs on November 5 vote
Alexandria Minnesota 225 7th Ave E
P.O. Box 549
56308

Residents in the West Central Area (WCA) school district, which includes Kensington, will be asked to vote on a bond and operating referendum on November 5.

0 Talk about it

The future of the elementary school in Kensington hinges on that vote.

There will be two questions on the ballot asking voters for a “yes” or “no” vote on:

● Question 1 - A $12.2 million building bond request for the purpose of adding a preK-5th grade addition to the secondary school in Barrett along with some renovation. The addition would result in centralizing all WCA students in one location and the closing of elementary schools in Kensington and Elbow Lake.

• Question 2 – An operating referendum request that will allow the district to revoke and renew its current operating levy authority at the same level in order to take advantage of recent legislative changes.

A newsletter from the WCA school district to voters noted: “For the past several years, the district has been extremely diligent in preserving our operating fund balance through efficient fiscal management and making tough decisions when necessary. However, costs to operate and maintain the district continue to rise each year and revenue has continued to drop each year with our slow but steady decline in student enrollment. As this cycle continues, it has become increasingly critical for the school board to continue to look for efficiencies.”

The projected savings by consolidating to one campus is about $656,941 annually; that total includes utilities, insurance, staff, mileage and snow removal costs.

The proposed savings does include elimination or combining teachers and support staff positions. Any staff adjustments would be made in the fall of 2015.

If question 1 is approved, the existing buildings in Kensington and Elbow Lake would reportedly be sold or demolished.

Barrett is about 13 miles northwest of Kensington and seven miles southeast of Elbow Lake.

FINANCIAL IMPACT

If the referendum questions are approved by voters, the tax increase ranges from:

• 22 cents annually based on an estimated market value (EMV) of $100,000 for a homestead residence

• $22.52 annually based on an EMV of $200,000 for a homestead residence

• $318.26 annually based on an EMV of $500,000 commercial property

• $109.15 annually based on an EMV of $495,000 agricultural homestead

FACTORS

The WCA school board reported four key factors in the proposed referendum:

• It is both fiscally responsible and educationally advantageous.

• It will save the district approximately $650,000 per year without impacting current programs.

• It will result in the least tax impact of all options that were considered for the majority of taxpayers.

• The proposed plan will allow the district to better maintain its financial well-being for the next 10-plus years.

A letter from Dr. Brenda Cassellius, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Education, stated: “Based upon the department’s analysis of the school district’s required documentation and other pertinent information from sources of the Minnesota Department of Education, the commissioner of education is providing a positive review and comment for this project.”

VOTING NOVEMBER 5 The bond and operating referendum will be on the ballot Tuesday, November 5.

Voters in precincts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 can cast their vote at West Central Area Secondary School in Barrett from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Amy Chaffins
Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.
(320) 763-3133
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