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Merrill Area Public School District to go to referendum on April 2nd

Merrill Area Public School District

On April 2nd, the Merrill Area Public School District is going to referendum for capital improvements.

The Merrill Area Public School District has had a history of funding issues.

In 2022, the district went to two operational referendums, but both failed, leading to the elimination of 30 staff positions and the reduction of many programs.

This past summer, the state budget increased funding for the district, but it wasn’t enough to cover the needs of the aging buildings.

That’s why they’re going to have a capital improvements referendum on April 2nd.

They’re proposing a base plan of $16 million.

For a $100,000 property, the annual impact would be $32.

This is District Superintendent Shannon Murray.

“It's not the super like glitzy glamorous referendum project, we're not building a new elementary school, or a new football stadium or any of those kinds of things. But it is a really wise decision for our district in the long run, because by taking off those five buildings, I'm no longer heating them, lighting them, changing their roofs, their HVAC, plumbing, any of that kind of stuff. So we're gonna be saving operations money in the long run by taking all those things offline,” said Murray.

The plan is to renovate underutilized spaces and demolish old buildings.

“It's a responsible way for us to respond to our declining enrollment. And by getting smaller, because we're not building anything, we're just remodeling stuff, and taking stuff offline, which will save us a lot of operations money in the long run,” he said.

“We're promoting a plan that will benefit people that I'll never likely even meet, because it'll be saving as operations money for the next 20 years, 25 years. It's the future of our community. It's the future of our kids,” said Murray.

The district has held a number of information sessions and community meetings to decide on the direction of the base plan.

“I think one thing I'm happy about in this process is how engaged our community was. We had really good input and ideas from a lot of different people along the way, stuff that we didn't even think about,” said Murray.

Since revenue limits for schools were frozen at the 1993-94 levels, schools around the state have needed to go to referendums to cover the costs of operating.

Five districts in the Northwoods this April are going to referendum.

“Fingers crossed, April 2. You know, when it comes to betting on referendums, that's a tough bet. All I can say is fingers crossed!” said Murray.

You can see the full details for the plan at this link.

Hannah Davis-Reid is a WXPR Reporter.
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