Facilities task force gets confirmation from county planner
After hearing a professional demographer's report spelling out continued growth in the Hudson School District, the Hudson Facilities Planning Task Force sought confirmation from someone familiar with the specifics of growth in St. Croix County.
County Planner Dave Fodroczi said the report he saw from Hazel Reinhardt "fits in with what we're seeing, and you can use it with confidence."
Fodroczi said the Hudson School District is not uniform when it comes to population but includes a mix of city and more rural areas, similar to the county as a whole. "What she outlines in her report is what we've been seeing going on countywide for a long time. And because of our location near the metro area, it is likely that will continue for decades to come."
Fodroczi said his office has seen more in-migration in the past five years than was predicted for the next 10. St. Croix County is the fastest growing county in the state and is expected to grow by almost 70 percent by 2030. The average state growth rate during that same period is 19.6 percent. He also said that in 2000 the county was one of three in the state with the highest household size. Fodroczi said there is a substantial inventory of lots still available in the school district and at least four subdivisions of 40 acres or more yet to be developed.
Fodroczi said the growth in St. Croix County may be the fastest in Wisconsin but is similar to growth patterns experienced by the 11 other counties that ring the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan area. When asked if growth would start to fall off as baby boomers age, Fodroczi said, no, that the growth is more about the state of the economy and the quality of life here.
"The Twin Cities is considered to have one of the most stable economies in the country. It just doesn't waiver much. There are stable industries and service jobs that attract a diverse group of people to the area where they can still live at a reasonable cost."
When asked if rising property taxes will eventually slow growth in the Hudson area, Fodroczi didn't see that happening either. "People talk about high property taxes but they also like the high quality of life they find. It all comes with a price tag - good facilities, a solid infrastructure and good services. The differential (between taxes in Minnesota and Wisconsin) has always been there but it hasn't seemed to slow anything down. For the families moving here, property taxes are an annoyance factor, not a decision factor."
Fodroczi said the enrollment projections set out in Reinhardt's report make sense to him and are consistent with what he has seen happen and what he expects to happen countywide in the years ahead.
"Her data sources were good and her methodology using population and housing unit projections is the best to use as a model for population growth," Fodroczi said. "She laid out a range - both bottom and top with all the qualifiers and without hidden assumptions ... This isn't predictions but projection and forecasting, and just like the weather, it is subject to change. But that said, this is a good product and fits what we are seeing in the broader county. I think you can use it with confidence."
Following Fodroczi's presentation, task force members discussed and agreed to accept Reinhardt's report as valid and as a resource to be used in determining what the district's facility needs are for the next seven years.
The group then moved on to a discussion of what to do next with the information they have gathered. They reached unanimous consensus that changes in the school facilities are needed - both now and over the next seven years - based on their school tours, the enrollment projections and the facility analysis by the architects of ATS&R. The group agreed that any options being suggested must not involve change to the district's curriculum, the middle school house concept, the class size guidelines and scheduling, or the school calendar.
Members were asked to bring possible proposals and options to deal with the facility problems to the next meeting on Oct. 28. ATS&R will also be asked to attend the meeting to help members evaluate the options presented.
Task force facilitator Linda Schroeder is preparing an update of the task force's progress that will be sent to every resident of the district within the next two to three weeks. The task force is expected to make a recommendation to the School Board at the December meeting.
For more information about the task force or to reach a task force member, contact Lois Zezza at (715) 386-4908 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meg Heaton can be reached at email@example.com.