Letter: Backs property, incumbents
I encourage your support of the school land purchase proposal at St. Croix Meadows on April 3. Several previous newspaper articles and letters from school officials and community members have presented strong arguments in favor of this purchase. My wife and I personally would like to see this proposal approved by the community because we want Hudson to continue to be an attractive and vibrant place to live.
We want it to be attractive not only for Hudson residents but also for those considering whether to move to Hudson, River Falls, New Richmond or other surrounding communities. With the current proposal we believe that we can take advantage of an existing facility at SCM creating significant savings for the school district and community. In addition, it will replace a current community eyesore located in a prominent location with an attractive and accessible secondary center for learning. Plus I believe that with this close location to businesses in that area, the industrial park, Camp St. Croix as well as UWRF Hudson campus it will have a positive impact for those businesses as well as create learning benefits and opportunities for our students. We also believe that with bond rates at an all-time low level there is not a better time for us to move forward with this project. Please join us and others in this community in voting in favor of this proposal.
In addition to the land purchase on the April 3 referendum there will be a number of school board candidates on the ballot. Incumbents, Tom Holland and Brian Bell, deserve your support as well. These two individuals have proven experience in the areas of facility planning and finance that we currently need during these important times involving our school facilities and financial decision-making. Both have done a great job in helping this school district navigate through challenging space and financial issues in a very thoughtful and sound manner. We need their experience and expertise for another three years.
Kris and Dan Tjornehoj, Hudson
Editor’s note: Dan Tjornehoj is a school board member
Letter: Vote no for dog track
It’s discouraging to see Mary Bowen-Eggebraaten and the school board use our kids as pawns in an attempt to pass the dog track referendum. A recent mailing by the district pictured the crowded hallways and cafeteria but made no mention of class sizes. If this referendum is about “space for learning,” then why no mention of the average class sizes?
In fact a recent request for information sent to the district asking for the average class sizes met with this response: “The district (middle school and high school) does not have records corresponding to your request”. How alarming is that? Either the district is withholding information in direct violation of the Wisconsin Open Records law or they are even more incompetent than I originally thought. How can you ask for more space and not know what the average class sizes are?
Nine years ago, then superintendent Ron Bernth used a similar tactic in an attempt to pass a referendum for an 8/9 building on land now considered unbuildable by the district. Channel 5 obliged by showing him posing in the hallway in between classes. So if this hallway issue was a problem in 2003, am I to understand that the school board has done nothing in nine years to alleviate this congestion? They should be ashamed of themselves.
To make matters even worse, the school board has actually allowed Principal Laura Love to reduce the passing time in between classes from 7 minutes to 5 minutes this school year. This move only creates a more stressful environment for our children and is something that I find appalling. Couple that with the fact that our kids can’t even leave class to use the bathroom due to the recent bomb threat and no wonder it’s a chaotic mess. Imagine trying to get from one end of the school to the other in 5 minutes and having to use the bathroom as well.
Instead of using creative solutions to free up hallway and cafeteria space, Mary Bowen-Eggebraaten and the school board actually exacerbate the problem then use those situations as leverage to pass a referendum. Even if they get their way we will not see a new secondary school for 3-4 years. Will they just allow these situations to get worse in that timeframe or will they finally do something only after they get their way?
Please vote no April 3rd.
Curt Weese, North Hudson
Letter: Vote ‘yes’ for purchase
Having served as co-chair of the Facilities Task Force back in 2004, I can attest to the due diligence that the board of education applies when making important planning decisions. I am again impressed and thankful that our board and our superintendent have exercised the highest level of care and good judgment in arriving at the decision to make an offer on the former dog track property. This is proving to be one of the best real estate deals ever realized by a Wisconsin school. What a coup this is for our schools, buying a $16 million piece of property for just $8 million. All we have to do to close this deal is to show up on April 3 and vote “yes.”
Of course there are those in our city that are against even this extraordinary and well-researched deal. As was the case in the Marx Brothers comedy, “Horse Feathers,” whatever the deal is, the Groucho Marx-types in this town repeatedly cry out:
“I don’t know what they have to say,
It makes no difference anyway,
Whatever it is, I’m against it.
No matter what it is or who commenced it,
I’m against it.
Your proposition may be good,
But let’s have one thing understood,
Whatever it is, I’m against it.
And even when you’ve changed it or condensed it,
I’m against it.”
Since the most outspoken negativism in this town seems to focus on hurting efforts to improve the more community-minded projects, (i.e. high school auditorium, the new elementary school, support for the public library, improving the city dike, or now the development of a storm water utility), we apparently must attempt to appeal solely to their personal, financial interests. Wouldn’t most everyone agree that transforming the weed infested dog track property into a first class high school would add great appeal to our community? This will certainly draw in more home buyers who will in turn cause our home values to rise up again; perhaps to the levels that we experienced before the housing bubble began to burst in 2008.
While our sons have already graduated from Hudson High School, my wife and I both strongly support the school referendum. Let’s come together and make this happen. Vote “yes” on April 3.
Roy Sjoberg, Hudson
Letter: Keep schools strong
Being a Hudson High School graduate I am proud of the community I grew up in and believe it is a quality place to raise my own children. I currently have two children at the middle school. Knowing first-hand how crowded the middle school is, I think the dog track is a perfect solution for solving over-crowding at both the middle school and high school. Along with many other families, I am concerned that without a new school the continued over-crowding will impact the quality of education Hudson students receive.
As the quality drops families will leave. As families leave our taxes will go up and the value of our homes will drop. I want my children to be proud of Hudson. I want them to believe Hudson is a good place to raise their children. Maintaining our school facilities is about community pride. We all benefit from strong schools. Join me in voting “yes” on April 3rd for the dog track.
Jennifer Setzer Bowman, Town of Troy
Letter: Intentions are clear
The school board’s planning for facility needs dates back many years, in fact decades. I commend past administration and board members for their long-range planning. Our community Facility Task Force of 2004 recommended the construction of a new high school. Acquiring an appropriate site is obviously a key component.
Though years of research and countless hours of discussion and debate involving stakeholders throughout our community have brought us to this point, Mr. Hermsen criticizes the district’s planning process. He suggests that our new secondary school can be built on 17 acres. As our current high school sits on 43 acres, I’ll leave the readers to draw their own conclusions as to the soundness of this line of thinking.
I’m not sure what he means by the “Pelosi” approach, but I object to his inappropriately inserting a quote, “We’ll tell you after the land has been rezoned and purchased.” No school board member made such a statement and he knows it. If Mr. Hermsen is still somehow in the dark here, I will make the board’s plan perfectly clear for him. It is the school board’s intention to acquire a site for a future secondary school to accommodate the needs of our growing district. Can this really be the first time you’re hearing this?
Mark Kaisersatt, Hudson
Editor’s note: The writer is a school board member
Letter: Need plans for school
We moved to Hudson in the spring of 2004. The population sign indicated 10,101 and it is almost 13,000 now. The infrastructure will have to adjust and grow to support the new population.
I’ve been enjoying the letters both “pro” and “con” concerning the upcoming referendum on the proposed acquisition of the dog track. However, it appears that both sides are talking past each other, and nobody is listening to the each other’s concerns. I was a school board president for three years prior to moving here, and that is not an uncommon thing.
If I were to go to a local banker and ask for an auto loan, he would want to know what type of car I was buying, what the cost was, what my collateral was going to be, what my credit score was, and what my credit card and other debt load was. Similar questions would be asked if I were obtaining a mortgage, including a home appraisal, an inspection, 20 percent or more down, and a lien.
A successful loan application is an indicator of the trust a lender places in your qualifications and the return on investment expected.
Imagine if my answer to the banker was: I just want approval for the loan. We’ll worry about all the details later. Think that loan would be approved?
The school and school board have already “spent” a little of the local population’s trust. A property was purchased long ago for school expansion, but is now found wanting, as are at least two other properties that have been considered. There are still strong community feelings about the teachers’ strike, and I suspect that may also be affecting the trust on this issue.
The proposal is once again for a “secondary” school. Like the banker, I think most folks would just like to see a comprehensive plan and know the exact details of what type of school (high school, or middle school?) we were “purchasing,” and the total cost, not once again just to buy property and figure out the details later.
If Superintendent Eggebraaten has another advocacy piece in the paper before the election, it would be nice for her to put out a more comprehensive plan than “trust us.” If the old adage: “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail” is not to come true, I sincerely hope more details are forthcoming. We want to see success, not another failed initiative.
Jim Coulson, Hudson
Letter: Sees issues with offer
The more the school board tries to defend their offer on the St. Croix Meadows property, the more I grow suspicious of their actions. The latest is hiring Jeffery White of an Eau Claire/ Minneapolis-based appraisal firm to do a property comparison analysis of the SCM property. I suppose using a Hudson/honest firm may not have produced the desired results. Besides, what’s the point of spending money on an appraisal now? The offer has been made.
Mr. White, the appraisal wizard, came up with $16 million as a value for the SCM site. Right! And I’ll be playing Michael Jackson in an upcoming HBO special. For years the city has been collecting taxes based on a $5 million dollar assessed value. Of course that value was set by the city tax assessor, but what would he know, he only appraises city properties for a living — just another local who has been run over in the board’s attempt to justify their very questionable actions. Thank god the school board didn’t get Mr. White’s appraisal before they made their offer (like most prudent buyers would) or the district would be on the hook for $16 million.
According to the 2012 tax roll the SCM property has an assessed value of $5,527,000 generating $93,639.32 in taxes. Mr. White’s total of $16 million means the city has been cheated out of $180,000 in taxes a year for the past 10 years, not likely.
White goes on to say that not until just before the meeting where he was to give his report, did he know that the school board had an offer on the SCM location. What? Does Mr. White live under a rock down by the river? The man did a comparison property analysis of the SCM property and in his research never came across the fact that the board who hired him over a month and a half ago had an interest in the property. What a putts!
Why does the superintendent think the local people are so stupid they cannot even levy tax values correctly? Probably the same reason she thought they would buy the Leed certification manure she was spreading for a while. I probably am as dumb as Eggebraaten thinks, maybe dumber, and if this “crock” doesn’t fly by me, sister you’re in big trouble.
John A. Windolff, Hudson
Letter: Track is not good purchase
The proposal by the current school board that voters of the district approve buying the defunct dog track for purpose eventually of converting it, maybe, into a middle school and/or a high school, has me questioning their sanity. While the sales pitch mailed to all residents of the district includes graphs indicating anticipated steep growth in HHS-enrollment, I am not convinced the graphs are realistic, but merely designed to create an illusion of future space needs.
Revisiting old enrollment projections, and current actual enrollment numbers, the district’s May 2003 projections, based on the then last five year trend model, anticipated the district at 5,500 students by 2011/12, which, with 5,495 students on 9/16/11 is where the district is. However, as the district had 5,460 students on 9/17/10, the important fact is that the growth curve has been broken, and now essentially is flat. The “growth” from 2010/11 to 2011/12 of only 0.6 percent equals basically “no growth,” and while there was an increase at the middle school of 4.7 percent, the elementary school enrollment declined 0.5 percent. Worse yet, kindergarten enrollment declined from 413 students in 2/2010, to 353 in 2/2011, and to 321 in 2/2012, a stunning decline of 22.3 percent. Obviously, declining K-enrollment eventually translates into declining elementary, middle, and high school enrollments down the road. And with currently little, or no, new SF/TH construction in the district, resumed growth caused by new families moving into the district appears wishful thinking.
The board woefully has failed to make a believable case for future space needs, and in addition has failed to explain just how it eventually would use the potentially vacant current middle and/or high school space.
The last thing any real estate taxpayer of the district, trying to survive on a fixed, or flat, or declining income need, is higher real estate taxes at a time property values continue their downward spiral. Some seem to believe that a so-called great school system is intertwined with maintaining property values, but deflating that myth appears the fact, that local property values in general have declined around 30 percent over the last few years.
Buying the “white elephant” dog track property just because it allegedly is a good value, is ludicrous. Only a real fool would do that.
Carl J. Dyrbye, Town of Hudson
Letter: Vote ‘yes’ for track
I have two great reasons to buy the dog track for a new secondary school for our community: your heart and your head.
Your heart knows that this community needs a new school. Our students have been doing a fantastic job of dealing with the crowded hallways and lunchrooms and the large class sizes. Walking around all day in high school with a 50-plus pound backpack as it takes too long to get to classes is not a fun way to spend each and every day. The erosion of the closeness of the house concept in the middle school at this difficult age in life makes it more challenging to focus on learning.
We want the kids in our community to have the best opportunities and prepare them for the next phase of their lives — we need a new school that will help them be the most prepared. Kudos also to the teachers and staff at the middle and high schools for doing their best to maintain a positive learning environment (especially the numerous cart teachers given our lack of space). Our schools are continually lauded as high performing — they have worked hard to utilize existing space and still excel at learning, but it’s time to make the next investment.
Your head knows that to find a parcel of land (with 90 usable acres for building and an existing structure with 90,000 usable square feet) within the city limits with existing four-lane roads and access ramps at $8.25 million is a great deal. That is less than $30 for the average house in Hudson. The community would get a much-needed new school with plenty of room for expansion. Additional space means a better learning environment, but it also means more space for our community groups and the ability to host tournaments and other events which brings additional revenue to our community. It means property values are strong and there are families wanting to move to our community and shop in our local businesses and eat in our local restaurants. This is a great asset for our community with a minimal investment.
Please visit www.voteyeshudson.com for additional information and even more great reasons on why this property is such a great investment for our community. Use your heart or your head and Vote Yes on April 3.
Kim Brunner, Hudson