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School Board answers questions on referendum
3/27/2006 - Ken Dahl, Cottage Grove Economic Development Corporation
A Statement of Facts about the School Referendum By the Monona Grove School Board

A Statement of Facts about the School Referendum By the Monona Grove School Board March 27, 2006

In recent weeks there has been a great deal of debate about the upcoming Monona Grove School District referendum. The Monona Grove School Board has attempted to provide accurate information on this matter so that residents can make an informed decision when they vote on this matter on April 4th. There has also been significant misinformation advanced by individuals that has led to rumors and uncertainty. The purpose of this correspondence is to address some of these issues, so residents can make their decision based on accurate information.

Why haven’t other options been considered?

The School Board and the Monona Grove communities have been reviewing several options for many years. This referendum has been advanced as a compromise solution to the facilities issue that has been debated for years. Although we recognize that individuals may find aspects of the proposal they dislike, it is our hope that the public will view this matter from a “big picture” lens.

Does it represent a fair compromise to this issue that will resolve this long debated issue?

We believe it does.

Why aren’t certain costs for the new middle school included in the estimates?

The main issue that continues to be questioned is that of the development of roads for this project. These costs were removed from the referendum in an attempt to keep the total costs as low as possible. We believe that the expenses for the construction of roads will be met by a combination of working cooperatively with the elected officials from Cottage Grove, along with the potential to sell off a portion of district-owned land to developers to help defray the cost of road construction. The school district has already held discussions with local government officials about these costs, and we anticipate further talks as we progress toward the middle school's opening in the fall of 2008.

Will the final project, including the architect’s fees, be sent out to bid?

Following a successful referendum vote, the School Board will meet to establish the bidding process. Thus far, the planning and estimates are “conceptual.” The final project will undergo strict scrutiny, to include input from staff and residents, and then be bid out.

A recent flyer that was distributed indicated that the middle school building cost far exceeded the median middle school costs in total costs, square feet per student, etc. How accurate is this information?

The flyer cites figures from different regions of the country and these figures are from the 2005 construction year. For example, national schools built in the south and southwest are designed significantly different and require less square footage. These are often “open” schools that may not require hallways, cafeterias, and other educational space. To compare our costs and square footage with these is inaccurate and misleading. The costs that we have in the referendum include increased anticipated costs for inflation through 2007 when this facility will be constructed. Additionally, the costs cited in the flyer are construction costs only and do not include other associated costs that we have included, such as site improvements, furniture, fees, and related development costs. Simply put, the figures that are presented are manipulated to make our projected costs seem out of line.

There also was a claim that the proposed new middle school is significantly larger than the national average. Is this statement true?

National figures range from 57,000 square feet to 175,300 square feet. Winnequah Middle School is approximately 94,000 square feet and is well over capacity. The new school will house four grade levels (5th-8th) whereas Winnequah Middle School currently houses three grade levels (6th-8th). The proposed new middle school’s concept plan shows 165,700 square feet. It is sized to meet the projected enrollments for the four grade levels of students. Finally, it is hard to draw comparisons on “average” sizes as there are many factors to be considered such as enrollment capacities, special purpose areas (cafeteria, commons, library, gym, etc.), and program offerings (technology education, family and consumer education, music, etc.). Each of these factor into how large a facility is needed.

The artist’s rendering of the new middle school makes it look larger than the Monona Grove High School and may be extravagant. Is this true?

Monona Grove High School is 236,000 square feet; the new middle school is planned to be 165,700 square feet, or about a third smaller than the high school. Conceptually, it has been priced to reflect a similar quality of construction to Monona Grove High School.

Some are claiming that the new middle school will be at near capacity when it opens. Is this true?

It is “cored” for 750 students but could easily accommodate in excess of 850 students. It has been reported that there are only 750 lockers in the cost estimates. If needed, students could either share lockers or the district could purchase additional lockers from its capital improvement budget. There will be adequate space to install additional lockers if needed. The challenge for the district is to build “just right” – that is, not to plan for too much room but still accommodate projected growth, which is what this proposal addresses.

Is it true that the referendum does not address elementary space issues in Cottage Grove?

The proposed referendum would reconfigure the two elementary schools in Cottage Grove. Taylor Prairie School would become an EC-1st grade school. The current modular classrooms would be removed and there would be sufficient space for current and projected growth. Cottage Grove School would become a 2nd – 4th grade school (with 5th graders attending the new middle school). There is adequate room at CG School to accommodate current student population for grades 2-4.

A recent flyer that was distributed indicated that the “true cost” of the second referendum question, which is to increase the revenue cap by $432,992 to address the additional operating costs associated with the building referendum, would amount to over $100 million. Is this accurate?

Simply put, this is totally inaccurate and uses vastly inflated figures. The dollar amount, $432,992, becomes part of our "base revenue" each subsequent fiscal year within the revenue cap formula. There is no compounding effect. The additional dollars remain, for all practical purposes, a constant $432,992 each year. This would not be assessed until the school actually opens (2008-2009 school year). 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; the board strongly believes this proposal will be educationally beneficial for our district's students. It addresses 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. It 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.

Monona Grove School Board: Nancy Allen Kathy Bultman Mike DuPlayee John Kitslaar Phil McDade Mary Possin John Weinberger

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