Guest column: Help G-E students grow up in a safe school
Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, July 25, 2023
Guest column by Halee Miller
Two small circles on a ballot — one with a “YES,” and one with a “NO” next to it. The future of generations of children and families depends on what small circle voters choose to fill in, on or before Aug. 8. So many G-E families and I care so deeply about this referendum — it’s why I choose to share these facts with you today. I urge you to read this statement in its entirety so that as a potential voter, you can be best informed.
The Glenville-Emmons School Board is asking the community to authorize general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $37,420,000 for “acquisition and betterment of school sites and facilities including, but not limited to, the construction of a new PK-12 school.”
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You can find a tax calculator for your exact home and land value at: https://sites.google.com/mnsouthmail.com/geref23/home. The quick facts are that the average residential homestead will have a monthly impact of $19.96 and the average ag non-homestead acre will have a monthly impact of 50 cents. The Ag2School tax credit will pay for 43% of the cost of the new PK-12 school.
The proposed new school would result in operational cost savings from the efficiency gains associated with operating a new structure and going from two buildings to one single building — and while the school district was at the maximum allowed for the last operating referendum, it is currently under the cap as the amount increases each year.
Just like many schools built around 70 years ago, it is recommended to rebuild by multiple outside professionals (that have seen this situation often) to provide safe infrastructure, modern and flexible learning spaces, improved technology and most important to me considering today’s climate — safety and security for children to learn without fear of an intruder. The process to get to this referendum has been carefully calculated and in the works for several years.
A misconception is that the school is being built for 400 students — which is untrue. The square footage of the proposed school is including spaces like locker rooms, a cafeteria and kitchen, restrooms, labs, a staff lounge, etc. — which the Minnesota Department of Education’s square footage recommendation per pupil does not include. The school does, however, still have room for growth of the student body, while probably small, which is necessary to have when we look to school districts similar to ours.
Look at Russell-Tyler-Ruthton (RTR) Public Schools — with towns comparable in size to Emmons and Glenville, taxpayers in the RTR district approved a $35 million referendum in 2019 to build a new school. According to the Marshall Independent, RTR had an enrollment of 619 when the school was built and has since increased to about 675. RTR also went from 103 open-enrolled students to 131. The Medford Area School District has seen a similar trend after their new build, as well as Lyle.
According to the National Association of Realtors, 26% of recent home buyers highly valued the quality of the school district when they were choosing where to live. As I have firsthand experience as a past G-E student, I can vouch that the education and faculty is of great quality — what’s missing is our infrastructure. The National Bureau of Economic Research also found that home values increased by $20 per dollar that was spent on public schools in a community.
I have heard from countless families that they would love for their kids to attend G-E if a new school was built — many families that would be open-enrolling. Albert Lea school district works for some, but not for all. I know that many parents, students and teachers yearn to be a part of a district like G-E if the facility could provide a safe place for teaching and learning.
Current students and teachers are at G-E because they want to be — they could go north if they wanted to, but they love the community and students they work with. G-E teachers’ salaries are in line with other local small districts (and within the SMEC Consortium), but they deserve a safe building to work in.
It’s also been said that the current G-E student body could be easily absorbed by surrounding schools that have “more to offer.” I first strongly disagree that they have “more to offer,” as when I attended Iowa State the last four years and compared experiences with my peers, I was often given more opportunities at G-E than people from larger schools all over the country. Secondly, the current student body would not be easily absorbed by nearby schools — schools would likely need to fix their own infrastructure if absorption occurred, causing taxes to increase anyways.
Let us not forget that the Albert Lea school district passed a $24.6 million voter-approved referendum in 2018 for an outdoor sports complex. Voters must think about what their taxes will be if they become a part of a new district. Even with the proposed taxes added to the G-E district if the referendum were to pass, the average yearly tax impact would only be $64 more than the current taxes of the Albert Lea district.
To see children grow up in a small school that’s safe in every way possible so that they can live a carefree childhood close to their home — that is priceless. I would give up almost anything to see this dream become a reality for my small school, and I hope that voters can see that value as well. Please go out and vote YES on or before Aug. 8.
Halee Miller is a 2019 Glenville-Emmons graduate and a 2023 Iowa State University graduate. She graduated with a major in journalism and mass communications and has since moved back to Glenville while working for Better Homes & Gardens remotely.