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USC board makes pitch to Legislature

By Staff | Mar 4, 2012

Christie Wetzel

United South Central School District officials have started their lobbying efforts in hopes of securing a grant to build a new high school.

On Feb. 28, Superintendent Jerry Jensen, School Board Chair Kathy Krebsbach and board member Christie Wetzel testified before a Senate Education Committee.

Wetzel says for 20 minutes lawmakers mostly listened.

“I’m cautiously optimistic. I don’t want to give anybody false hope that we’re a shoe-in,” she says. “Right now it’s just a waiting game.”

It is the second time Jensen and Wetzel have gone to the State Capitol.

On Feb. 8, they appeared before a House Education Finance Committee for a bill introduced by District 24B Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder.

District 24 state Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, has introduced a companion bill in the Senate.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 facilities grant would pay 75 percent of a new facility up to $20 million or up to $10 million for remodeling.

Jensen called the trip to St. Paul fairly successful.

He says legislators were concerned if one district received funding to build a school that would open “the flood gates” for other requests.

USC officials say the grant is needed because declining enrollment and increasing ag land values make traditional funding under the current formula impossible.

The district is planning to hold a referendum vote during the Aug. 14 primary election.

In order to receive a grant, voters in the school district must pass the ballot issue.

In other business, Jensen says the general fund at the end of this school year is projected to finish with a deficit of $189,621.

For next year, the deficit is estimated to be around $339,000.

But, Jensen told the board there’s no need to panic and start cutting staff or programs.

“We don’t want to do anything until we have all the financial pieces. A year from now we’ll have a better sense,” he says.

Board members denied a request to provide transportation for a student living in Minnesota Lake.

“We’re not doing that anywhere and it might open the door for other requests,” Jensen told the board.

“Maple River has been a good neighbor. I don’t know if we want to jeopardize that relationship,” he adds.

Wetzel agreed with Jensen, saying she remembers the number of phone calls she received from people when Alden started picking up students in Wells.

“I wouldn’t feel proud capitalizing on another district,” she says.