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Pine River-Backus School: District survey results positive

Echo Journal file photo.

The Pine River-Backus School Board received results of a recent phone survey by the Morris Leatherman Company on behalf of the school, and Business Manager Jolene Bengtson said results were even more positive than she anticipated.

The board reviewed results Monday, Oct. 15.

The survey polled 400 random households in the Pine River-Backus School District. Among the topics were the perceived quality of the school, what survey takers liked about the district, the most serious issues faced, programs and financial management. The survey ultimately wrapped up with several questions regarding views on funding for the district and opinions regarding a possible $16 million bond referendum or its individual parts.

The survey results showed that 64 percent considered the quality of the district to be good with 16 percent considering it excellent. Asked what they liked most about the district, 31 percent said the teachers, 10 percent were unsure and 9 percent liked the variety of programs available. Lack of funding was identified by 18 percent of survey takers as the most serious issue facing the district, 15 percent were unsure and 10 percent said poor discipline was the biggest issue. A majority of respondents (58 percent) considered the quality of the district to be about the same now as three years ago. The response was almost identical with 59 percent considering PR-B about the same in quality as neighboring school districts.

The survey found a large majority approved of the district's ability to meet learning needs, the building and facilities and financial management.

Survey results showed that 28 percent felt they had no tolerance for a bond referendum, which could result in a tax increase. The majority of participants felt they were capable of tolerating a monthly tax increase of some sort. Of those surveyed, 58 percent reported some tolerance with 11 percent tolerating a $3 per month increase, 13 percent tolerating a $6 increase, 16 percent tolerating $9, 10 percent tolerating $12, 5 percent tolerating $15, 2 percent tolerating $18 and 1 percent tolerating over $18.

The $16 million bond option included six possible projects that received varying levels of support and opposition. They were:

• Career/industrial tech classroom space with 79 percent approving and 20 percent opposed.

• High school media center with 64 percent approval and 32 percent opposed.

• Theater/auditorium with 58 percent approval and 39 percent opposed.

• Storage building with 56 percent approval and 38 percent opposed.

• High school gymnasium with 51 percent approval and 46 percent opposed.

• Football field with 46 percent approval and 51 percent opposed.

Bengtson said that Morris Leatherman identified the storage building, high school gymnasium and football field as projects that could determine the success or failure of an attempted bond. She said more information regarding what those projects would include could possibly earn more support.

Board Chair Chris Cunningham noted that future opinions regarding the football field improvements could change. While there is no varsity football team this year, which could partially account for the lack of support, there are many students coming up in the junior varsity program.

The survey further showed that 62 percent of participants considered the improvements either a good idea or a very good idea while 35 percent considered them either a bad idea or very bad idea. A survey question weighing the fairness of the $16 million price tag showed that 52 percent considered the price fair, 39 considered it unfair with 9 percent unsure. Another question found that 61 percent of respondents either support or strongly support the proposed $16 million bond referendum and 37 percent oppose or strongly oppose it.

Of those who said they supported the bond position, 24 percent said it was because education is important and 18 percent said the cost was reasonable. Of those who opposed the bond position, 12 percent said they opposed it due to poor district spending and 10 percent said taxes are too high.

Asked about the tax impact of a potential $16 million bond, Bengtson said the owner of a $100,000 home would see a monthly property tax increase of approximately $5 per month or $60 per year for 20 years. The owner of a $200,000 home would see a monthly increase of approximately $12.50 or $151 per year for 20 years.

In other business Monday, the board:

• Learned the solar project framing is being constructed with panels expected later this week.

• Decided to include policy reviews in all board work sessions to avoid falling behind in policy improvements starting in January.

• Approved termination of custodian Kory Hole.

• Approved hiring Barbara Puleo as long-term substitute teacher, Isaak Anderson as senior high Knowledge Bowl adviser, Melanie Lindquist as junior high Knowledge Bowl adviser, John Riewer as varsity boys basketball coach, Mike Dinnel as assistant boys basketball coach, Randy Schwegel as varsity girls basketball coach, Tucker Sheley as assistant girls basketball coach, Jordan Ackerman as junior high girls basketball coach, Travis Hoffarth as varsity wrestling coach, Tom Demars as assistant wrestling coach, Justin Franke as assistant wrestling coach, Pat Foster as junior high wrestling coach, Jennifer Anderson as speech coach, Katie Just as prom adviser, Shaun Howard as junior high boys basketball coach and Jennifer Crimmins as prom adviser.

• Approved the Cass County Children's Initiative Inc. interagency agreement.

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