Monona Mayor Robb Kahl shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the proposed Monona Grove
school district referenda in his comments made public Wednesday. To cite several examples:
-- Kahl says less expensive building options are available, but his suggested proposal -- simply update and renovate Winnequah Middle School -- fails in any way to address the long-term need for space in the Cottage Grove attendance area. Not once does Kahl suggest how the district should meet the growing enrollment needs in Cottage Grove. The school district's proposed building referendum does meet those needs, by opening up space at Taylor Prairie School and building a middle school for 5th through 8th graders who live in Cottage Grove, as well as Monona 7th and 8th graders.
-- Kahl criticizes the referendum for closing Nichols School. But Kahl and the city council are on record as supporting the proposed phase-out of Nichols School for use as a school. The city council, with the mayor's backing, put the entire Nichols School property in a redevelopment zone last year, without seeking the approval of the Monona Grove School Board. The city has a long history -- with such projects as Pier 37, Riverfront Place, and Frostwoods Commons -- of redeveloping large parcels of land in Monona. The city's act of putting Nichols School in a redevelopment zone indicates the city's desire to redevelop that property.
-- Kahl states that "the majority of money to operate this district comes from Monona." This is simply not true. Roughly half of the district's annual operating budget comes from state tax revenue; half comes from local property taxes. State tax revenues come from only one source -- student enrollment.
Fully 62 percent of Monona's enrollment comes from Cottage Grove, and that percentage is rising
every year. About 57 percent of the district's property tax base is in Monona, a figure that's been declining by 1 percent each year for the past decade.
-- Kahl refers to the city's comprehensive plan, adopted by the city council in 2004, as a justification for opposing the referenda. Yet that plan was adopted without the mayor or council ever approaching the school board about the contents of the comprehensive plan that dealt with schools located in Monona. The mayor talks of working "in a cooperative manner," yet relies on a document that involved absolutely no cooperative work with the school board.
March 29, 2006
Statement by Monona Grove School District
-- Kahl states that Monona would "suffer a significant setback" if the referenda were to pass, but offers no details or explanations why he thinks this. Indeed, Dane County communities such as Fitchburg and the village of Cottage Grove are thriving and growing in the absence of high schools in their home
communities. The school board's referendum seeks to provide a modern, contemporary middle school
where most of the district's middle school students live, plus make upgrades in Monona school
buildings. In addition, Kahl fails to note that more than 75 percent of all building upgrades in the
Monona Grove school district since 1992 have been spent on Monona schools, including the new high
Mayor Kahl is free to vote the way he wants to on the referendum. However, Kahl lacks a basic
understanding of the issues facing this school district. Indeed, it is the frequent public meddling in the
issues of this school district by Kahl and some members of the Monona City Council that has
contributed to the difficult debate our school district community has had about its facilities, and the
challenge in resolving them. Kahl and the city council should be focused on municipal issues facing
the city, not a school district they do not represent.
The Monona Grove School Board recognizes that a project of this scope will generate considerable
debate in our community. The proposed referendums have the unanimous support of the board, which
strongly believes they will be educationally beneficial for our district's students. They address
overcrowding at both Winnequah and in Cottage Grove while meeting the expectations of the Monona
Grove community for high quality education with fiscal responsibility and cost-effectiveness. The
project has significant citizen support in both Cottage Grove and Monona, and we note that all three
local newspapers -- The Capital Times, the Wisconsin State Journal and the Herald-Independent --
have endorsed this referendum package. We urge district residents to carefully study the information
provided by the district, and we urge passage of the referendums.
The Monona Grove School Board