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Paynesville Press - February 20, 2002

Fund-raising campaign hits stretch run

By Michael Jacobson

Donations to the "Keep the Quality" Campaign - a fund-raising effort to aid the local school district with its budget woes - need to be mailed this week, by Friday, Feb. 22.

Residents of the Paynesville Area School District should have received a letter, pledge card, and response envelope last week. Volunteers for the campaign are attempting to call as many district residents as possible this week to review the campaign, answer questions, and remind willing donors to send in their donation this week.

The campaign aims to raise as much money as possible from school supporters to reduce the need for the upcoming budget cuts. The donations will be turned over to the school district at the school board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 26, where the final decision about the budget cuts will be made.

As of Sunday night, before any donations from the calling were turned in, the campaign had received over $15,000.

Last week, the school board approved applying any donations from the group to reduce the overall amount of cuts for the 2002-03 school year. According to the budget cut process used by the district, the school board members will rank the cuts individually and these rankings will be compiled to form an overall board ranking. Then a decision to cut $500,000 is simply a matter of drawing a line after items totalling that amount.

Any funds raised by the fund-raising campaign would be given to the district with no strings attached. The money would be applied to save the highest-ranking items on the cut list.

In other words, if $50,000 is raised, only $450,000 would need to be cut. If $100,000 is raised, only $400,000 would need to be cut. If $200,000 is raised, only $300,000 would need to be cut.

The fund-raising campaign got its origin from the public hearing on the proposed budget cuts, which was held on Monday, Feb. 4. At that meeting Bob Gardner, now the chairman of the "Keep the Quality" Campaign, observed that more than 600 people voted to pay more to the school through taxes during the levy referendum last fall and these people might be willing to donate now to support the school district.

The campaign is based on the belief that the school offers promising programs and that the proposed cuts would hurt the district's offerings. The cuts might lead students to open enroll in other districts, which could further the district's enrollment losses and be an additional loss in revenue.

The Eden Valley-Watkins Public Schools has published a brochure touting its district and offering free bus transportation for up to a mile from its district boundaries and transportation for a fee for residents within three miles of their district.

The immediate goal of the "Keep the Quality" Campaign is to raise funds. The next goal would be to help the district pass a levy referendum this spring and ultimately would be to start a foundation for the school district.

Checks should be made out to School District #741 and mailed to the "Keep the Quality" Campaign; Attention: Bob Gardner, chairman; P.O. Box 187; Paynesville, MN 56362. Donations, which are tax deductible, need to be mailed by Friday so that they can be collected and presented to the board on Tuesday, Feb. 26.

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