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Hancock school board discusses referendum and consolidation options

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Referendum

Voters in the Hancock school district will probably be asked to vote on a new school referendum this fall. The district has a current referendum for $800 per pupil taken out in 2002 that will be expiring. The district also has a second referendum approved in 2007 for $350 per pupil unit. The board will probably ask voters to at least approve another $800 referendum but could ask for up to $1,150 per pupil unit. With the increase, the district could see about $80,000 of extra money per year over the next several years.

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This money could potentially be used to make needed repairs and do some updating throughout the school. Some areas of the school have not seen work for a number of years. There is also some tiles coming loose in hallways and windows that could use replacement. The board may also need to look at options for adding a couple classrooms in order to accommodate the increases in enrollment.

Principal Tim Pahl told the board that he projects the kindergarten class for the next two years to be at 20-30 pupils. When you compare this to the graduating classes in the next two years of 22 and 15, the enrollment numbers in that area alone, will increase.

The board has also asked Pahl to present them with a list of areas that need improvement or updating in order for them to have a better picture of what needs to be done in the near future. This should be available to them at the February meeting. The board will then have until summer to come up with an amount they will ask for in the referendum.

Cyrus Consolidation

Superintendent Jerry Martinson, Principal Pahl and board members Joel Flaten and Barry Nelson attended a meeting of the Cyrus school board where the possible closing of the school and consolidation with a neighboring district was discussed. Representatives of the Morris, West Central Area and Minnewaska school districts were also present at the meeting.

They reported that if a consolidation takes place, each district keeps its own debt however the teachers from the closing district are brought into the consolidating district in a pool with the teachers having higher seniority possibly bumping out those who have not been in the district as long. This, however, could be changed in the negotiating process.

One wrinkle in the process is that if the school district dissolves without consolidating, the state can take away referendum money from all of the surrounding districts. Since the school is in Pope County, the re-districting would then be up to the Pope County Board of Commissioners. This almost forces the neighboring district to hold discussions and look at options.

One possible solution would be to divide the closing district with portions going to each of the neighboring districts. Even with this, because of open enrollment, there is no guarantee that the students would attend school in the district where they live. The one thing gained would be the tax revenue from the land and properties reassigned to the district.

The Hancock board and other neighboring boards have been invited to a future meeting in Cyrus. Board members Flaten and Nelson will continue to attend these meetings and bring back information to the Hancock board.

Elections

Ken Feuchtenberger, board chairman for a number of years, has decided to step down from the position. He stated that with his health issues, he did not feel it was fair to the board. He then nominated Barry Nelson for the chairman seat. Nelson accepted and was approved by the other board members. He thanked Feuchtenberger for his work as the chairman and wished him well. "I have a good crew to work with" said Nelson.

Rod Peterson was re-elected clerk and Randy Reese re-elected treasurer. The committee appointments were made with very few changes.

Other business

* Brett Nelson came before the board as a representative of the Post-Prom Committee. He told the board that they are hoping to hold the Post Prom activities at the Morris Armory and wanted to know if a school bus could be used to bring the attendees there, if desired. He was told that buses can be rented by groups if they provide the fuel, hire the driver and obtain insurance for the event.

* New Hancock Police Chief Matt Flogstad was at the meeting to introduce himself and let the board know that he is available if the school needs him for demonstrations, presentations or anything like that. "I am here to help you and would like to be involved with the school and the kids" Flogstad said.

* Barry Nelson told the board that he had some discussion with Ryan Schroeder about bus service work. Schroeder plans to purchase Hancock Equipment effective April 1. He is doing what he can to learn the necessary DOT and state regulations regarding bus work.

* Board members discussed several of the sessions they attended at the Minnesota School Board Association meeting including an interesting talk with State Patrol about bus inspection. In this discussion, they were told that Hancock buses would almost certainly be inspected again if in use at state tournaments.

The February board meeting will be held on Feb. 27 at 7 p.m.

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