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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • CHRISTOPHERSON EDITORIAL: They weren't perfect, but don't throw 2011 school board under the bus

  • Everyone says hindsight is 20/20, but that perfect vision is going to be skewed if some of the people looking back have selective memory, or simply are unaware of the facts.
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  • Does anybody read this stuff?
    That was the question that swirled in the Times' reporter's mind with increasing intensity and with each additional comment in the Crookston High School commons last week, the scene for the school board-hosted public input meeting to discuss around $16 million in facility improvements needed at the three public school buildings and swimming pool.
    One intelligent, articulate and community-minded individual after another, most of them pool supporters, complained that in the build-up to the November 2011 ballot question that specifically sought a funding boost for the pool, they weren't told that around half of the $150,000 in pool revenue that would be raised each year of the 10-year referendum would go toward the school district's share of the annual operating deficit, split with the City of Crookston. In round figures, that deficit is currently approaching $140,000, meaning each entity is ponying up almost $70,000 yearly.
    So, doing the math, that would leave around $80,000 a year to be put toward capital improvement and/or maintenance projects at the aging facility.
    But those complaints weren't based on fact. After the public input meeting, the next morning back at the Times, a five-minute search of stories written in late 2011 and early 2012 – before and after the successful referendum – that included the word "swimming pool", "levy" or "budget" immediately turned up eight matches, dating from October 2011 to May 2012. One was an editorial and seven were front-page news stories, with each one specifically stating that around half of the pool referendum monies would go toward the district's share of the pool operating deficit and the rest would go into an account to be spent on improvements and maintenance at the facility.
    But, apparently, that editorial and those seven stories weren't read by a wide audience. Either that, or people have short memories.
    Absolutely, the school board and administration at that time miscalculated on some things. Superintendent Chris Bates, hired last year, said there's a document that circulated between board members and pool supporters from 2011 that lists pool project priorities, and yet no dollar amount is listed next to the two most expensive items, a new boiler and a new roof. "It's a million dollar mistake," Bates said, who has said repeatedly that he's simply dealing with the hand he's been dealt.
    Everyone says hindsight is 20/20, but that perfect vision is going to be skewed if some of the people looking back have selective memory, or simply are unaware of the facts.
    It was made clear by the school board and administration in 2011, before the vote on the pool question, that half of the resulting revenue would be applied to the district's portion of the annual operating deficit.
    It's in black and white. Numerous times.

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