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Needs assessment necessary in Lynd

August 20, 2011
Marshall Independent

To the editor:

I am a long-time resident of the Lynd school district with some serious concerns about the upcoming August 30 bonding referendum to replace the current Lynd school.

I attended the district's informational meeting on August 15 expecting to have an opportunity to speak about issues that we felt the District leadership had suppressed or failed to consider as they brought forward their proposal for the a $11.5 million new school. We were also concerned with their stated intent to go forward with $3.7 million in improvements to the old school if the bonding referendum fails, without another vote, and without re-assessing the Public's interest in doing so. But, as reported in this newspaper, Lynd's Superintendent Bruce Houck did not allow anyone to speak.

I am in agreement with your August 18 editorial addressing the referendum. There is no place for personally attacking the school board or administration for trying to assure the future of Lynd as an independent school district. They have worked very hard to keep Lynd an attractive option in competition with the very good larger school choices nearby. Also, I am very pleased with the district's leadership in making the Lynd school a supportive place for our region's immigrant population.

Unfortunately their plan to build a new school is both risky and expensive. Will voters be willing to approve their high cost bond issue? Will they be able to attract enough students when they have been unsuccessful at retaining local students in recent years? Will they continue to secure the operating funds, also requiring voter approval, to keep the new facility's doors open? A clear assessment of the overall needs of Lynd district residents is in order and needs to be on the table. The key fact is: Far more children living in this district are enrolled in public schools outside this district than attend school at Lynd; and we have to question whether a new building will change this equation very much.

Everyone needs to know I'm using figures from Lynd's last published Report Card to the State Dept. of Education for 2009-10 when Lynd had an enrollment of 111 students - 76 of the 111 kids in school here were open enrolled from other districts. That means only 35 kids belonging to local taxpaying families, or about four per class, were in school in Lynd in 2009-10. That's astonishing! Also, the Report card states 94 Lynd resident children (including an undetermined number of high school students attending non-paired districts) were open-enrolled in other public schools.

I don't think local taxpayers should or will approve an $11.5 million new school for use by 35 students +/- living in the district; and when the cost of the new school will give us by far the highest school taxes among surrounding Lyon County districts. Voters will understand that parents of 2/3 of the school's enrollment will not be taxed for the proposed new school building because they are not residents of the district.

One reason Lynd has been viable as a small school is that we members of the public have always supported Excess Operating Levy Referendums for the district that provide substantially more dollars per pupil than referendum levies approved in adjoining districts. Lynd's referendum approved excess levy on a $100,000 home is now $222 higher than Marshall's excess levy on a home of the same value. Given our low capital costs we could afford these levies because our overall taxes remained below those in surrounding districts with bonded debt. Voting for these levies was not only good for the kids attending at Lynd, it was always less costly than any consolidation option. That will no longer be the case if we build a new school.

If this big bond referendum passes we will be saddled with a 30 year capital debt levy 47% higher than Marshall's current capital levy. On top of this, will voters also continue to approve the generous state maximum per-student levies needed to keep this school competitive, when so few in-district students are being educated here?

Should the August 30th referendum fail, it is critical that Lynd's school board delay all but the most pressing health and safety upgrades on the existing building, as you would do if you were building a new school. Other options should be reviewed before spending $3.7 million. In your review, it is essential that you listen to parents of kids open enrolled out, as well as those who continue to use this school, and other taxpayers. All have a voice in the future of this district. But remember that district families with kids in school elsewhere are a strong majority. If you can't keep the Lynd school open at a reasonable cost, close it.

Tom Runholt




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