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Should districts consolidate?

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news Alexandria, 56308
Echo Press
(320) 763-3258 customer support
Alexandria Minnesota 225 7th Ave E
P.O. Box 549
56308

Over the last few years, the Brandon and Evansville school districts have shared in extracurricular and academic offerings.

Now, both Brandon and Evansville school boards are putting it to voters in those districts on June 25 to decide if the two school districts should consolidate into one.

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The special election ballot will ask whether a voter is "for" or "against" consolidation. The ballot question must pass by a majority in both districts. If it passes in both districts, the merger would be effective July 1, 2013.

SPECIAL ELECTION

A special election will be held to determine Brandon and Evansville School Districts consolidation. Voting will take place Tuesday, June 25, polls open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Brandon school lobby or Evansville school lobby near the gym. Details are at www.b-e.k12.mn.us.

ALREADY PARTNERING

Over the last 30 years, the two school districts have partnered in some way. This school year, the districts combined 6th through 12th grades. Sixth through 8th graders go to school in Evansville and 9th through 12th graders attend school in Brandon. Each town kept its own kindergarten through 5th grade schools.

A newsletter sent by the Brandon and Evansville school boards notes: "Because of this successful combining of the middle and high schools, and the strong history of cooperation between schools, it seems like a natural progression to move on to consolidation."

FINANCIAL IMPACT

Citing cost efficiency, the school boards note that consolidation would help maintain and improve the financial viability of the school districts.

Both school districts are reportedly strong financially. Both schools currently have no bonded debt, no operating debt and no capital or energy loans.

According to audits of both districts' finances for 2012, both have at least two month's worth of unrestricted fund balances, as recommended by the Government Finance Officers Association.

The estimated tax impact for residents would increase for Brandon property owners and likely decrease for Evansville property owners.

A taxpayer with a home with a market value of $100,000 in Brandon currently pays about $147 per year on an existing school levy. That would increase by about $40 per year if the districts consolidate.

A taxpayer with a home valued at $100,000 in Evansville currently pays about $353 per year on an existing school levy. That would decrease by about $166 per year if the districts consolidate.

COMMUNITY MEETINGS

There are at least two more community informational meetings scheduled for next week:

--Wednesday, May 22 at 7 p.m. in the Brandon School gym.

--Thursday, May 23 at 7 p.m. in the Evansville School gym.

School board members from both districts invite the communities to attend.

WHAT IF?

If consolidation is not supported by voters, the school boards have vowed to "continue with our current pairing agreement."

The current agreement indicates an automatic renew clause, but either school could discontinue the agreement.

"Be assured both boards would examine all concerns that led to the defeat of the consolidation and continue to work toward a consolidation agreement that would be mutually embraced by both communities," it was noted in the informational newsletter.

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