Could the Crookston School Board, even if it wanted to, vote to take money out of the Crookston Community Swimming Pool budget and instead spend it on educating kids? With the diabolically complex way that public education is financed, there are probably some kind of budget coding rules that would forbid such an action, but it’s the question being asked today because the pool continues to be a cash drain, and because the Crookston School District owns it, the school board has to keep discussing the financial burden of trying to keep the facility from, literally, crumbling.
It’s really unfortunate that, as the board and administration discuss with Johnson Controls the millions of dollars that need to be spend at the local public school buildings, the pool is not only lumped into that conversation, it actually dominates the conversation more often than not. Sure, kids learn how to swim in that building, but no one is being educated.
This editorial opened with the question it did because board member Frank Fee the other day bemoaned the situation, saying that the continuing problem is that the board keeps having to spend money on the pool, money that could be spent educating kids. Fee’s comment points to the larger issue, which is how out of whack it is for a school district to own a pool, a stand-alone facility located nowhere near any school buildings.
In the coming months, school district residents are going to be bombarded with tons of information about the money that needs to be spent at Crookston High School, Highland School, to a smaller extent, Washington School, and, the pool. The referendum voters approved a couple years ago boosts the pool budget by around $150,000 a year for another eight years, adding up to more than $1 million in all over the 10-year life of the operating levy.
So far, the additional revenue has been great, and voters have been able to see the benefits of their “yes” vote in the form of new tile surfaces in the swimming and diving pools, and new lights that are much brighter and more energy efficient.
Turns out, though, that more than twice as much money than the levy will provide over the 10 years is needed to keep the pool building from essentially falling apart. The ventilation system doesn’t ventilate, and the chemicals in the air that aren’t moved to the outside have the building literally getting eaten up from the inside out. Masonry bricks can’t handle all those chemicals and all that humidity and condensation that is never abated, and the roof is letting water in all over the place. It’s a bad situation.
Page 2 of 2 - District voters really stepped up for the pool at the ballot box a couple years ago. They showed that they think the facility is an asset worth not just keeping open, but investing tax dollars in.
Now, however, it appears that voters are going to be asked to potentially show even more support, not just for needed pool improvements, but urgently needed repairs and improvements at CHS and Highland School, too, that invariably get put off because the school board prefers to spend money on teaching kids. Apparently, it can all be set up so that the tax impact is fairly minimal, so stay tuned, there’s certainly a lot of information coming your way soon.