The Free Press, Mankato, MN

November 10, 2013

School bond OK affirms area commitment

WHY IT MATTERS: When taxes are used efficiently and produce quality results, it's not spending -- it's investing.

The Mankato Free Press

---- — This was the year for education.

Statewide, voters in 50 of 57 school districts approved operating levies which at 88 percent success rate is the highest on record. The same success rate was applied to building bond/capital requests from schools throughout the state. Several districts are adding buildings to accommodate more students next fall when the state fully adopts all-day kindergarten.

In the Mankato area, 70 percent of voters approved the state’s largest amount — $69.5 million — for a new middle school and other big ticket items such additions to Dakota Meadows Middle School making it a grades 6-8 school, expansion of West High School’s cafeteria and renovation of East High that will turn it solely into a high school and moving the junior high students to the new middle school.

The argument presented for the bonding was increased enrollment. We are seeing actual increases in enrollment — 10 percent in 10 years — with an additional 10 percent coming in five years. This conclusion was not based on any projected increase in population which the area economic developers foresee.

With more than 4,000 votes cast in an election on the bond issue and school board candidates, turnout was higher than usual and for the bonds to be approved with such an overwhelming percentage speaks to this community’s belief that investing in education is important and is paying off.

This area was one of the early adopters of all-day kindergarten and has a vibrant early childhood education initiative formed in 2008 by local business, non-profits and schools focused on preparing children for kindergarten and comprehensive parent education.

The value of quality education is not lost on those charged with the economic health of our community. In lending its support for the bonding issue, Greater Mankato Growth’s President Jonathan Zierdt said the organization “is focused on promoting the economic growth and vitality of our regional marketplace through effective community and business development initiatives. The bond referendum is one such community initiative.

“Our community’s commitment to the strength of our educational system is a tremendous asset as we position Greater Mankato as a great place to operate your business or raise your family.”

This area can still boast about its vibrant growth in the state where our proximity and size allows us to attract jobs and grow but still hold onto our small town values while offering quality affordable services.

No one likes to pay more in taxes but when those taxes are used efficiently and produce quality results, it’s not spending — it’s investing.