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FAQ

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If you have any additional questions, please email to referendum@isd116.org


1. When is the vote?


The election will be held on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, 7 am to 8 pm, at one polling location: Pillager School, 323 East 2nd Street South, Pillager

2. How can I learn more?

There are a variety of ways to learn more about the referendum election:
Visit:  www.isd116.org/referendum
Email: referendum@isd116.org 
Call 218-746-2100
Attend a community meeting:
Monday, October 9 at 6:30 p.m.,
Monday, October 23 at 9:30 a.m.,
Monday, October 23 at 6:30 p.m.  
All meetings are held in the Pillager Elementary School cafeteria

3. Can I vote early or by absentee ballot?

There are a few ways to vote early or by absentee ballot:
1. You can print off the ballot application found on this website. You would mail or email this application to Cass County and they would in turn send you an absentee ballot that you can return by mail. (You could also just bring this to the Pillager City Hall to get a ballot.)

2. You can go to Pillager City Hall and complete the ballot application there. When you turn it in to them, they will give you a ballot that you can complete right on the spot and return it to them (nothing needs to be mailed). Your vote would be cast.

3. You could go to the Pillager City Hall for a ballot application. Complete the application there and they will will give you a ballot to take home that you can mail later.

All absentee ballots must be received no later than November 7, 2017. 


Why is there a need for a referendum for additional classroom space?

Our district enrollment in 2012 was at 875 students with an expected increase to 1,177 by the year 2018. This growth has, indeed, been happening thanks largely to the image and quality of our school. Average elementary class sizes have increased from 58 students per grade in 2010 to an average of 83 in 2016. The district is currently using both portable classrooms this Fall, as they are being used and shared by several special education teachers and as a middle school classroom. The district has also added a third music teaching staff member to meet the needs of instruction and will be short a classroom which will mean that some classes will be taught with music on a cart. Early childhood is currently out of space and has a waiting list for program offerings.

 

How much is the school district growing?

Historical and projected enrollment figures estimate district enrollment will maintain the class average size of between 80 – 100 students per grade. This information was also stated in the independent organizational study conducted by Roger Worner and Associates.

 

Where is our increased enrollment coming from?

Pillager families are simply choosing to stay in their resident district because of the quality of education, the excellent facilities, and the opportunities that they have available right in their own community. Since 2010, we have gained 67 students that chose to stay in our own district rather than open enroll out. Since 2013, we have gained 67 students whose families moved into the district. We have also had an increase in student population through open enrollment with an additional 150 students choosing to attend Pillager Schools. Adding those three factors together, the district has gained just under 300 students since 2010, with almost half of those students living within the district boundaries.

 

What does the bond project consist of?

The current school bond consists of the following: two new early childhood classrooms, five new elementary classrooms, two new elementary special education classrooms, a new elementary music room, enlarging two existing classrooms and two existing restrooms, a new performing fine arts auditorium and community event center and maintenance and roof repair of the 1992 facility along with selective brick repair, window replacement and heating and cooling unit replacement. The referendum that the voters so graciously passed six years ago in 2010 addressed a different need at that time.

 

Does the school district need a performing arts and community events center?

Most neighboring districts of similar size have a performing arts auditorium, which often serves as a resource to the entire community. We see the same opportunities for ours. Our current space, which was built in 1940, doubles as a performance space and elementary lunchroom. This requires extra staff time to set up and take down for events and takes away from learning or practice time. The acoustics are poor and the poorly vented space is not ideal for large gatherings or events. A performing arts and community events center would greatly benefit the music, theater, and fine arts department and could serve as a venue for regional events and competitions for school sponsored activities, staff development, training sessions, and district-wide meetings. Other regional events could be held there such as the annual Pillager Fiddlers Contest, community meetings, public assemblies, visiting speakers, dance competitions, traveling choirs and music concerts, and many other area events.

 

Will the current high school be large enough to handle the future growth?

Based on the facility analysis completed by Widseth and the Worner Study that was completed for the District, the high school will be sufficient in size to handle the future growth in the elementary.

 

How does the community benefit from this facility project?

A strong school system is the nucleus of a community. Many people live in our area because of the strengths of our school district. A thriving, growing, competitive school district will continue to attract new families and businesses to our area. This growth is good for our businesses, tax base, city, and school district. A performing fine arts auditorium and community events center will allow for greater community access and improves the quality of life for our residents and will allow the district to host local and regional events that will bring revenue to the school district and our local businesses.

 

Why doesn’t the district close open enrollment?

As the Worner Independent Organizational Study stated, there are considerable benefits to continuing with open enrollment. The dollars that are generated can provide opportunities and programs that the district would not otherwise be able to offer revenue. Currently the district operates as a three-section middle school and high school, yet it could grow to four sections and become more cost efficient. The majority of our current high school classes would be able to handle an increase in students without an increase in costs. In essence our school becomes less expensive to operate. To be a four-section high school, the district would need five sections of kindergarten through 2nd grade. As indicated in the Worner Independent Organizational Study, district growth from 2007-2014 was at 19% overall and during the same time period district expenditures only increased by 12%. The study indicates to our residents that the district has operated a highly cost effective organization.

 

How does the district benefit from open enrollment?

Open enrollment for our district brings in additional revenue of over $3.3 million. Our district also received $100,000 in equalization aid from our local levies from the state for open enrollment students. Equalization Aid is revenue for which our residents are not assessed. For every $1 in the operating budget that is levied due to open enrolled students, an additional $9.25 is generated in state aid that benefits all students in our district. This money is used for programs such as college in school, additional teachers and staffing, added technology purchases, staff development, just to name a few. It would be a challenge to offer those programs without that additional revenue. When people want to move to an area, a common question a homebuyer may ask a realtor is: how are the schools in the district? Having a good image and being a school where people want to send their children creates a positive environment that draws more people to the district. That increases future home sales and property value increases and will eventually lower the tax burden by increasing the net capacity.

 

How does the district manage open enrollment in the future?

Open enrollment is good for the district as long as the district continues to manage it. The Worner Independent Organizational Study stated, “Observable benefits include enhanced staffing, programs, services, and organizational finances”. Moving ahead, the school board and administration will continue to monitor open enrollment. The decision to close open enrollment will be made when it is no longer economically beneficial to the district.

 

If the bond fails, how do the maintenance projects get fixed in the future?

The school board would address the roof and exterior maintenance issues by increasing the Long Term  Facility Maintenance Levy to make the needed repairs. The board could sell bonds based on the future levy dollars that the district will receive to get the repair work done earlier.

 

What will happen to the need for future space if the referendum fails?

The district’s enrollment and space issues will not go away. The school board will be faced with bringing another plan to residents if the bond fails. Based upon our current information, a future bond will likely include higher interest rates and increased construction costs.