Cambridge-Isanti bond referendum up for vote Nov. 5.

Dr. Ray Queener

Dr. Ray Queener

Dr. Ray Queener, Superintendent
Cambridge-Isanti Schools

Independent School District 911 has made significant efforts to communicate with the communities on the Nov. 5 bond referendum. The District has been privileged to keep the communities involved in our schools and to inform them of matters that affect our students.

The efforts to provide the communities with information about the bond referendum began in August and have spanned several outlets — social media, newspaper columns, informational mailers sent to district residents, emails to parents of our students and school staffs, radio interviews, and radio public service announcements. Collectively these communications were disseminated and published over 20 times.

Nine informational meetings were extended to the public — via mailer, newspaper, and website invitation — in the communities of Cambridge and Isanti. Meetings at all seven school sites were held and offered tours of the buildings to highlight the needs for maintenance and modification identified in the bond referendum proposals.

The District made nearly 60 appearances at local community events, civic organizations, school staff/advisory meetings, student conferences, and parent group meetings to offer opportunities to learn more about the bond referendum and to inform leaders of the communities. Information on the bond referendum was and will continue to be presented to leadership groups such as the local chambers, city councils, Lions’ clubs, and the Rotary until election day.

Additionally six morning coffee meetings —three of which were advertised in local media — were hosted at local coffee shops for residents to join representatives of the District and receive answers to their questions on the bond referendum. Informative newsletters were presented to community members at our local libraries and at several local businesses and organizations in Cambridge and Isanti. Information on the bond referendum continues to be accessible on the website specially developed for the communities as a resource for the bond referendum at http://www.cambridge.k12.mn.us/~bondreferendum/.

The communities are important to the ongoing commitment to provide our students with the best in education. Should the bond be supported, it will help to generate funds needed to address the safety, security, repair, and maintenance needs of our buildings and facilities, and will help to keep funding used to support learning in the classroom.

Every year the District receives approximately $1.2-million from the State to address capital needs. This funding is well under the $35-million the District has in capital projects which span several years. The money received from the State is spent between capital equipment and facilities. Capital equipment includes items like — student tables, technology, textbooks, office equipment, large band instruments, bus radios, and helmets and mats for athletics.

Capital facilities include school parking lots, sidewalks, flooring/roofing, boilers, lighting, and other delayed maintenance needs. The funds from the bond referendum can only be used on the most critical components of the buildings and facilities, and cannot be used to finance learning or capital equipment.

The maintenance needs of our buildings are represented in over 932,000 sq. feet of buildings and 249 acres of land that must be maintained on a limited budget. For several years, our schools have struggled to keep pace with these needs.

Every year the Long Range Facilities Planning Committee meets at least 4-5 times to identify the capital needs of the District. The committee strategically identifies the most critical needs of the District’s buildings and facilities and develops a plan to efficiently and cost-effectively meet needs by priority each year. The five-year capital plan identifies the urgent needs to be addressed with the bond referendum.

The District takes great care to spend responsibly and to use feasible resources for the funding of our schools.

The District owns two parcels of land — 68.53 acres on County Road 19 and 1.76 acres of land at the old Isanti bus lot. Both parcels were appraised over the summer and the value of the land fell significantly from five years ago. The parcel on County Road 19 dropped from $286,000 to $145,000, and the bus lot parcel dropped from $176,000 to $93,500 in appraisal value. Because the appraisals of the land were not as much as the District had hoped, a decision was made to avoid a significant loss on the land by selling it at this time. However, selling the land to help with funding needs may be a possibility for the future.

The land on County Road 19 is rented for local farming each year. In the last two years renting the land for use has generated $3,690 in revenue.

Just like our homes must be maintained, so must our schools. The schools are used 358 days out of the year for numerous activities and programs that enrich our communities. The bond referendum will help to prevent costly degradation to our schools and help to protect taxpayer assets with timely maintenance.

The priority remains to continue to provide Cambridge-Isanti students, and all those who use the communities’ buildings and facilities with safe and effective learning environments, and quality experiences. The bond referendum will help to sustain the District’s long history of providing our students with the best educational opportunities.

As voters, you have an opportunity to speak for all students, and on behalf of our schools, when you vote  Tuesday, Nov. 5 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Your vote is your voice and every vote counts.

You can continue to learn more about the 2013 Buildings and Facilities Bond Referendum. To access plans for building proposals, a project budget, tax impact calculator, and information on polling places visit the District’s website. You can also call the Superintendent’s Office at 763-689-6188, email rqueener@cambridge.k12.mn.us, and follow @Queener1 on Twitter.

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