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USC looks for state funding

By Staff | Jan 29, 2012

Jerry Jensen

The 2012 Legislature’s first day in session was Jan. 24 and already some local residents are keeping a close eye on pending legislation.

At Tuesday’s United South Central School Board meeting, resident Gary Hagen wanted an update on the district’s efforts to secure a cooperative facilities grant to build a new high school.

“The House bill is ready to go, I don’t know about the Senate version. I’ll be contacting Sen. Rosen this week,” says board member Christie Wetzel.

Acting as the district’s legislative liaison, Wetzel has been working with District 24B Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, and Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, on a grant that’s available to consolidated districts.

Superintendent Jerry Jensen says he’s had discussion with state legislators, including the chairman of the House Education Finance Committee.

“We’ve been promised a hearing on the House side. We’re moving forward,” he says.

Cornish says his bill requests $20 million be earmarked for USC.

He says the measure was written with input from Jensen and state education research officials and would be an addition to the governor’s bonding bill.

“USC’s school is literally falling apart. It’s hard to say if the district would get the full amount, even a portion would be good,” says Cornish.

Jensen was given the go-ahead to have the district’s building and grounds committee study locations for the school before having to testify in St. Paul.

“If we were zeroing in on a site that would be helpful,” Jensen says.

Cost to build a new high school is estimated at $28 million, while remodeling and upgrades at the current school campus would be around $20 million.

The grant would pay 75 percent of a new facility up to $20 million or up to $10 million for remodeling.

USC officials probably will not know until near the end of the session whether the district will receive a grant and, if so, for how much.

“Depending on what happens with the Legislature, we’re targeting Aug. 14 for a referendum vote,” says Jensen. “That’s a primary election date.”

In order to receive the grant, voters in the school district would have to pass a referendum.

Cornish says USC?officials should know near the end of April if funding has been approved.

“Approving a bonding referendum hits ag land really hard. Hopefully other state lawmakers see that,” says Cornish. “We’re just trying to even that playing field out.”

In other business:

• Kathy Krebsbach was re-elected as board chair; Jon Feist, vice chair; Sharon Parriott, clerk; and Kari Jacobson treasurer.

• Board members approved purchase of two vans, pending state approval. Jensen says a recent accident in which a van was totaled has created transportation problems for special education students. No one was injured in the two-vehicle accident and no one was ticketed.

The district would buy two vans from a state fleet, each costing around $24,000. The funds would come out of the district transportation budget and carry-over funds.

• The board is considering a request from Sarah Oldham of Minnesota Lake to change a policy of not providing transportation to students living outside the district.

Her son attends St. Casimir’s School in Wells.

Oldham says there are six families from Minnesota Lake, Alden, Delavan and New Richland who have children going to St. Casimir’s.

Oldham says she and her husband in the past have supported the USC?district in various ways and are willing to pay any extra fees to transport their son.