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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Marinette School District Sends Rightsizing Plan To Voters Nov. 3

Issue Date: October 21, 2020

Finding the right size for the Marinette School District has been a community collaboration. Superintendent Corry Lambie said input from the community was key to developing the $30.92 million facilities plan that will go to voters in a referendum election on November 3. If approved, the plan will rightsize the district, making it operationally efficient and able to offer educational excellence by consolidating district operations from six buildings to four.

Lambie stated, "Our community has been given an opportunity to be active in the process since the onset. We have participated in valuable discussions which have led to quality planning regarding the four-building option to best serve our students, staff, and community."

Like many rural Wisconsin districts, Marinette has been facing budget challenges due to declining enrollment and state-set revenue limits on how much money school districts can raise through property taxes and state aid. For the past year, the district has studied ways to responsibly manage its limited financial resources while still offering excellent educational programming.

Community engagement was a key part of this process of figuring out how to rightsize the district. The district did an efficiency study of its operations and sought input from stakeholders through study groups and meetings. This spring, the district conducted a community survey on the results of a facility study. The study found that there were significant facility needs at several district buildings including aging infrastructure and roofs that needed to be replaced. The study also found that there was excess capacity at some of the buildings. Since it is impossible to heat and maintain just a portion of a building, the district was spending money on building space that was not being used.

An enrollment study conducted by the Applied Population Lab, UW-Madison, found that a pattern of declining enrollment was likely to continue for the foreseeable future. During the past 10 years, district enrollment has dropped by 176 students. Fewer students mean the district has fewer dollars to spend under the state revenue limits.

Based on community input and data from the studies, the Board of Education decided that in order to operate more efficiently and make the best use of limited resources, the district should consolidate its operations and go from six buildings to four. If the referendum proposal is approved, the district would close Garfield Elementary School and Menekaunee Sunrise Early Learning Center. Additions would be built at Park and Merryman Elementary Schools. Students in early childhood through 1"st grade would attend Merryman while students in 2"nd through 4th grade would attend Park.

The preliminary proposal for the additions at the elementary schools is approximately $22.8 million. By going to four buildings, the estimated savings over the next 20 years is approximately $20.76 million. Also, by closing two elementary buildings, the dollars saved will immediately be used for educational programming.

The referendum proposal also calls for remodeling at Marinette Middle and High Schools. At the middle school, the cafeteria and restroom area would be renovated and expanded while at the high school, the library/learning center would be upgraded to include enhanced technology and flexible learning spaces. There are existing roof projects at the middle school and high school totaling roughly $2.2 million. The high school and middle school remodels will cost approximately $400,000 each, and an upgrade of the high school fire alarm will total around $300,000. The additional dollars will go toward furniture, fixtures, equipment, contingencies and fees.

Because the district has been fiscally prudent, the current mill rate of $8.73 is 7% below the state average. If the referendum passes, it is estimated to add $0.93 to the mill rate. This equates to $93 annually on a home valued at $100,000. The Marinette School District is among only 8% of Wisconsin school districts to carry no referendum debt, according to Finance Director Sean Kelly.

"The current historically low municipal interest rates make this a prudent time to invest in education," Kelly added.

A successful referendum will allow the district to create learning centers by having all students from the same grade level in the same building. This means that students will start and end their school careers with the same group of students, which will have positive impacts on their educational experience. The centers will ensure optimal class sizes " identified as a district priority by the community.

"The entire rightsizing process has been about our children receiving excellent educational opportunities. We have been and continue to be fiscally responsible in our planning for the future. In conjunction with our community, we all serve as advocates for the education of our youth, and by doing so, we are investing in our community's future for years to come," Lambie said.

Marinette School District will host their final virtual information session on Tuesday, Oct. 27, at 6 pm. The link to join the webinar is "https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81430836519. For more information, visit our website at "https://www.marinette.k12.wi.us/RightsizingTheDistrict.aspx.


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