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Help for school consolidation

Published (4/10/2009)
By Kris Berggren
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“The handwriting is on the blackboard,” Rep. Ron Shimanski (R-Silver Lake) told lawmakers on the House floor April 7.

McLeod West Public Schools faces its imminent demise — and a reorganization debt estimated at $3 million — but the district would like to minimize the consequences for neighboring districts that will absorb its 500 students.

A May 2009 election is scheduled to decide if the district is to be consolidated among the Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop, Buffalo Lake-Hector and Glencoe-Silver Lake districts, which have agreed to absorb McLeod West students. Shimanski doesn’t want those districts to find themselves in financial constraints that could lead to statutory operating debt.

Sponsored by Shimanski and Sen. Steve Dille (R-Dassel), HF1040/SF811* would allow the McLeod West district to issue general obligation bonds without voter approval. It was approved 127-4 by the House, six days after the Senate passed it 65-0. The bill now goes to the governor.

“This bill is an effort to do an orderly consolidation rather than dissolution of the district,” Shimanski said. “It saves the three districts from absorbing any debt.”

McLeod West was created when Stewart and Brownton schools merged in 1998. It has experienced severe enrollment decline, as well as facilities disrepair in the face of voters’ defeat of both building bond and operating referenda.

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