Take time to learn about school referendums
On April 5, voters in the Medford and Gilman School districts will go to their polling places and cast ballots either in support or opposition to referendum questions.
Medford is trying for a third time to pass a referendum to renovate and expand portions of the high school building. At $29.9 million versus previous attempts at $39 million, the project is significantly scaled back, both in cost and scope of projects, from the previous attempts. The focus of the Medford project is on improving educational opportunities at the high school, specifi cally in the science and technology areas, while also addressing security and confidentiality needs in the offi ce and other areas. The biggest additional change is to construct an access road from the elementary school to CTH Q which will provide improved traffic flow for parents.
Gilman is seeking voter approval of a referendum to exceed the state-imposed revenue limits for the next four years. State law limits the amount of local taxes school districts can collect from residents. With the state-imposed limits and with state aid based on student enrollment, small schools such as Gilman that face declining enrollment get hit with a double whammy as state aid declines leaving the district unable to cover the difference.
For Gilman it is a revenue issue, not a spending issue. The state revenue limits have not kept up with rising costs of instructional services and fixed costs. While the district has been responsive to declining student enrollment and has reduced staff when possible, certain instructional services and fixed costs cannot be reduced.
Without the referendum, Gilman School district is facing a budget deficit of $700,000 for the District’s 2022-23 school year, $800,000 for the 2023-24 school year, and $900,000 in the 2024-25 and 2025-26 school years.
In a twist, the school portion of the Gilman property tax bill will actually decrease if the referendum passes.
While there are voters who have made up their minds on how they are going to vote, for those who haven’t it is important to learn what you can about the request from the school districts and to ask questions if you don’t understand the information being presented.
It is also important to encourage others to do the same and learn all they can about these important decisions which will shape education in the Medford and Gilman School Districts for decades to come.
Now is the time to learn more. Both school districts have ample material on their school websites. In addition, Gilman has been holding a series of informational sessions with the final session on March 21 at the Gilman School Library 4:30 - 6:30 p.m. prior to the regular school board meeting.
Medford Area Public School District will be holding an informational session on March 10 at the high school from 10 to 11 a.m. and from 6 to 7 p.m.
Take the time between now and election day to gather information and make an informed choice when it comes time to cast your ballot.