Genereux says neglecting facilities longer will cost taxpayers more later.
When the Crookston City Council this week began discussing a resolution to support the Crookston School District levy referendum that will be on the ballot during a special election on Tuesday, Nov. 5, Ward 6 Council Member Tom Vedbraaten sought a clarification.
"Are we actually supporting the levy or are we just encouraging people to vote?" he asked Mayor Dave Genereux, who responded that the resolution specifically supports a "yes" vote on the ballot.
The question will ask school district voters to vote yes or no on a levy totaling just over $6 million that will fund repair, improvement and upgrade projects at the three public school buildings and swimming pool. The total package of projects adds up to around $14 million, but because of certain levying authorities established by state statute, the school board has the ability to proceed on just under $8 million worth of projects without first seeking voter approval.
Due to the bonds that built Crookston High School 18 years ago being paid off in 2015, Superintendent Chris Bates told the council during a presentation at their meeting Monday, school district residents should see no increase in their school property taxes.
Genereux, who's been sort of a tax watchdog during his years as mayor but has also said he understands small tax increases now and then are better than big tax increases that lead to sticker shock, said the school levy seems like a good deal for the community.
"As a taxing entity, we have to be concerned, and as we look at our taxing partners we want to make sure we don't overtax," Genereux said. "But if we don't fix these buildings in a timely fashion, it's going to end up costing our taxpayers a lot more. It's important that we don't have $15 million projects every few years, it's just too much money."
Ward 1 Council Member Tom Jorgens said the fact that the four facilities are in such need of repair is another indication of inadequate state funding for public education over the past several years. "Schools have been forced to make choices, and the things that you skimp on are the maintenance pieces, the things that don't show so quickly," Jorgens said. "But over time, they show."
It's about keeping the community strong, he added.
"We're trying to grow the community, with jobs and housing, and whenever we have a development opportunity the question comes up, what about your school?" Jorgens said. "It's a key thing when people are looking at investing in our community. It's important from a city point of view that our school be strong."
The council unanimously supported the resolution. Ward 3 Council Member Gary Willhite was absent.