Letter: Specifics on dog track
I know at this point in the process we are all needing and wanting to know what type of building will eventually be placed on the dog track site before we decide whether we support the upcoming referendum. I strongly encourage everyone to be patient because the district and the board will be holding a series of five public forums beginning Feb. 23 where they will give more details on the long-range plan.
I attended their presentation to the Hudson Daybreak Rotary on Feb. 1 and they stated “the site would be used for an 8-9 junior high, a three-year or four-year high school. At a minimum, the new secondary school will be built to accommodate 2,000 students with the potential to expand to 2,500 students.” We all know that this is the greatest area of need because the largest classes in the district are in the lower grades, which eventually will occupy this building.
I think we have a real opportunity to work as a community to determine what type of building we want on this tremendous piece of property. We all have an opinion and if we want it known, all we have to do is participate in the discussions that will be held as part of the process. In most every referendum held in any community across the U.S., the various district administrations have already determined what type of building should be built — we as citizens and taxpayers do not normally get a voice in that decision and in this case we have an extraordinary opportunity to be a huge part of that dialogue. The district and the board truly want to hear from us. The community will decide in the months following the referendum what will be built on the site.
In the end we may not all agree on the final building design for the dog track, but at least there has been a healthy debate and a community consensus has been reached. I think this discussion will pull us together as a community and allow us all to be proud of what will be a community centerpiece for decades to come. This will be our last chance to build a structure that we as a community had a part in building — there are no other viable options.
Paul Moen, North Hudson
Chair of the Vote Yes Campaign
Letter: Trust those elected
My fellow Hudson citizens who serve as elected officials to run city and school affairs have done an incredible job of providing services while keeping costs in line. When it comes to purchasing the dog track for a school building project, I think I will side with the officials who have conducted the research and have judged it to be a viable option. In last week’s Star-Observer an opponent to the project used the word “taxpayer” six times in his letter. The subliminal message was clear; taxpayers are being burdened by the local elected officials who spend our money unwisely.
To set the record straight, my property taxes over the last 10 years have been reduced by $138. Let’s trust our elected officials so that we can eliminate the eyesore of an abandoned dog track and provide a brand new school for future Hudson students. Vote “yes” for the purchase of the dog track.
Slater Lampman, Hudson
Letter: Buying track is first step
The April 3 referendum is not about whether Hudson School District (HSD) needs to build secondary school space. The need for secondary education space is more than compelling: both the high school and middle school will be more than 30 percent over capacity within 5-10 years. The need to build is obvious. The real question is where and what. These should be separate referendums.
The referendum to buy the St. Croix Meadows (SCM) property is about: 1) whether the property is a good value; and 2) whether we will give our district flexibility in selecting a secondary school building for both the short- and long-term. While it appears the $8.25 million purchase price will be favorable when taking into account the infrastructure that already exists, some have expressed negative opinions before an appraisal has even been completed. When the appraisal comes out in a couple weeks, we’ll have more facts to make a judgment.
Assuming the price is good value, the ultimate question is whether we want to increase the options for the both the long-term and short-term future of the HSD. By short-term I am referring to 10-20 years; and for the long term, 50 years and beyond. We need to be looking at the long term when investing taxpayer money for buildings that should last more than 50 years.
Consideration for the long-term vision is why HSD leadership is doing this referendum right by not including a specific building in the referendum. To design a building before you know where it is going to be built is like putting the cart before the horse.
A decision about a specific building should be made only after we have established the flexibility to make a building choice. The SCM site would better preserve the option of a four-year high school for future generations. Frankly put, neither the current campus nor the property out on County UU can logistically house a four-grade 2,200 capacity, let alone expand beyond that 2,200 capacity when we go out 20-50-plus years into the future. The current campus or “UU” might be able to handle up to three grades in 8-10 years, but a four-year HS for the long-term future is not realistic. Purchasing the SCM property would give HSD voters the most flexibility in deciding, in a separate referendum, what option make the most sense for the short- and long-term.
James R. Johnson, Hudson
Letter: Backs track purchase
It’s great that there’s so much energy in the dog track purchase discussion. We all know we need a solution to the overcapacity middle school, with the high school to follow in one year. Growth projections, which in the past have been accurate or low, show the ever rising numbers (following the present students in the system, county birth and housing rates), and they have not even included what will happen to student numbers if/when a new Stillwater bridge comes in.
So we have a challenge facing us and we have a school board of members of mixed political positions seeking a solution. They are not pawns. Nor is the school district our enemy. Together they have checked out the other available sites for a new secondary school, all of which were either withdrawn, proved unsafe because of traffic, and/or were prohibitively expensive due to needed utilities infrastructure.
The dog track site is in a central place with easy access to major roads. It has — at the very minimum — $4.8 million dollars in usable structure and infrastructure: 90,000 sq. ft of a solid, convertible facility space; water, sewage, storm sewer piping, electricity, manholes, runoff pond, construction and parking lot leveling, etc. These features’ worth has been estimated at 50 percent of what it would cost to build them new, so any other site would require more than $9.6 million in necessary construction to be on par with this site. In addition, the cost per acre for the dog track site, at $1.50 per acre, is under what is being asked for similar local sites ($1.78 for tourist bureau site, $2.25 for a nearby undeveloped site).
Finally, this site has been designated for a secondary school. As should be, the community process with the school board will determine the budget and if this is an 8-9 school, 10-12 or 9-12 high school, with a shift of other facilities. Right now, the one-time dog track opportunity equates in property taxes to one dinner out ($13.50 for a $150,000 house; $18 for a $200,000; $22.50 for $250,000). By investing now with a cost-effective, central site at low interest rates, we are free to decide our next step. Without the site, we can’t address our problem — and it will cost us far more later when we’re in crisis and desperate.
To decide for yourself, check out http://www.hudson.k12.wi.us/ or voteyeshudson.com for more information.
Marybeth Lorbiecki Mataya, North Hudson
Letter: Supports track buy
I support the purchase of the Carmichael Road dog track property by the Hudson School District because it is a good business choice.
Our schools are currently filled to capacity and from all of the data that I have seen, a reasonable person would conclude that our student population will continue to grow. We need to find a financially sound long-term solution to this problem.
I believe that the purchase price of the building and land is a good value. We should remember that assessed valuation and appraised market value are very different measurements. Commercial property in Hudson is very often assessed for taxes much lower than appraised market value.
Additionally, I know that the purchase of the dog track will have a minimal effect on my taxes because of retirement of existing school district debt and the eventual sale of the UU property. Interest rates are at historic lows. If the district needs to borrow to complete the construction of a new secondary campus, then the timing could not be better. Good business practice dictates taking advantage of opportunities. The purchase and development of the dog track for the betterment of our community is an opportunity that we should not allow to pass.
Jim Lutiger, Hudson
Letter: Track site is best spot
There has been much discussion on the Hudson School District Referendum on April 3. The middle school and high school are currently overcrowded, and student enrollment is projected to rise for years to come. No matter what the arguments against the purchase of the dog track are, ultimately the issue remains that this is the only suitable land available for a secondary school in Hudson. The requirements of size, terrain, and amenities offered at this site are unmatched, either by land currently held by the school district or other land that was offered for a future school’s use.
Aside from the inherent altruistic value in providing our children with quality schools, it is also in our community’s long-term financial interest. Good schools upgrade the quality of life for the entire community. This makes the community a more desirable place to live. And they give graduates a reason to want to return and make a contribution to progress in their community.
Most families have three financial goals: educate their children, pay their taxes and provide for a comfortable retirement. Education and retirement are inextricably linked. The archenemy of retirement is inflation. A well-educated and productive workforce keeps inflation down. A survey conducted a few years ago by the Wisconsin-based management consulting firm Runzheimer International and SchoolMatch, a school information and counseling service, found that good school districts equate to high home-market values. Their research studied over 16,000 school districts nationwide and correlated property values to the quality of the school as measured by pupil performance on scholarship exams. Their findings conclusively supported the assumptions that good schools add to property values.
Supporting good education takes state tax dollars and more. Unless there is continuous investment to improve our schools, over the long run the quality of life will be lowered and the best and brightest will leave for better education and not return to contribute. In other words, an investment in local schools can be the most important investment you make in your home. (Taken from the Ontario, Ore., pride website.)
If the February assessment of the dog track values the property at $8.25 million, we will vote “yes” on April 3. If the assessment is significantly under this amount, the purchase offer needs to closely reflect that sum.
Lance and Carrie Whitacre, Hudson