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Paynesville Press - February 13, 2002

Fund-raising campaign started

By Michael Jacobson

Volunteers at work Public school proponents are putting their money where their mouths are.

On Monday, Feb. 4, at a public hearing on the proposed budget cuts by the Paynesville Area School District, the idea of fund raising to minimize the need for cuts in the 2002-03 school year was raised by Dr. Bob Gardner, who pointed out that more than 600 district residents voted for extra taxes to go to the school.MO

Gardner's suggestion for fund raising was echoed later at the public meeting by Paul Bugbee, among others. Bugbee suggested that $500,000 could be raised by 500 people giving $1,000 apiece.

Gardner and Bugbee are leading the drive to find financial support for the school district from willing donors in the community.

The goal of the fund-raising effort, dubbed as the "Keep the Quality" Campaign, is to raise as much money as possible for the district and lower the amount of cuts that would need to be made in the 2002-03 school year.

The failure of the levy referendum in November left the district with no alternatives to substantial budget cuts. The school district is in the midst of a $500,000 budget reduction process, for the second straight year. The district is required by its statutory operating debt plan to cut $500,000 dollars from its 2002-03 budget.

A public hearing on the cuts was held last week, and board members will now rank each prospective cut from one (important to keep) to seven (the first to cut). These rankings will be tabulated and used to cut $500,000 at the board's meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 26.

Following the public hearing, a group of 10 citizens met with Gardner and Bugbee on Thursday night to start planning the "Keep the Quality" campaign.

The campaign is based on the belief that community members, though they don't have to pay extra taxes in 2002 to support education, will want to support the school through donations to reduce the need for budget cuts.

"Although last year's cuts were significant, the budget cuts which now confront us are truly devastating," wrote Gardner in a letter sent to a couple thousand community members this week. "We will not only lose a number of important extracurricular opportunities for our students, but we are faced with the certain loss of many educational programs which exemplify the quality reputation of our local education system."

The volunteer committee has stated three goals. First is to raise as much money as possible in the next couple weeks to be used instead of budget cuts. On Feb. 26, the board is expected to take the ranking of possible budget cut items and simply draw a line after $500,000.

If the fund-raising campaign raises $500,000, no cuts would be needed for 2002-03. If $400,000 is raised, only $100,000 would need to be cut. If $300,000 is raised, only $200,000 would need to be cut. If $200,000 is raised, only $300,000 would need to be cut. If $100,000 is raised, $400,000 would need to be cut.

The money raised by the "Keep the Quality" Campaign will all be turned over to the school district with no strings attached. Checks should be made out to the Paynesville Area School District. (Contributions are tax deductible.)

The fund-raising committee decided that residents who want money to go to a specific program on the cut list should contact the school district directly. The school board has already proposed that any extracurricular activity could be reinstated if it becomes self-sufficient through some outside funding source.

The school board is also considering some sort of charges to help fund all-day, everyday kindergarten, so directed funds, if sufficient, could possibly be directed there as well. The second goal of the fund-raising committee is to help pass the next school levy referendum. "The wrong thing happened," said Gardner about the levy vote this past November, when the school levy, which would have raised more than $450,000 for the district in 2002-03, was defeated 687-886.

Even if the fund-raising campaign succeeds in averting some of the proposed budget cuts, without extra revenue for 2003-04, the school district will be forced to enact these cuts a year later. In other words, this fund-raising campaign is meant to be a one-time affair, but the budget items that would be saved are yearly expenditures, which would not be funded next year without a new levy.

The third goal is to use the donors and volunteers from this fund-raising campaign as the foundation of a school foundation. The idea here would be to raise funds, possibly even an endowment, to support the school district through capital purchases and possibly in future times of budget crunches.

A group of 30 volunteers for the "Keep the Quality" Campaign met on Sunday night at Paynesville Lutheran Church to address and mail letters to community members that explains the campaign and the reasons for it.

Volunteers plan to meet again this week to call community members and ask for contributions to the campaign.

If anyone did not receive an informational letter but wants to contribute, they can send a check, made out to the Paynesville Area School District, to: "Keep the Quality" Campaign; Attention: Chairman Bob Gardner; P.O. Box 187; Paynesville, MN 56362.

(Editor's Note: In addition to reporting, editor Michael Jacobson actively participated in these fund-raising committee meetings.)

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