District aims to educate on opt out

BROOKINGS – The Brookings School Board heard updates from Brookings School District Superintendent Klint Willert regarding the April 10 opt out vote, and the district’s plans to put out information to the public ahead of that vote.

The opt out in question would raise a maximum of $5.1 million each year and would last for 10 years. The school district reports on its website that officials would not use the full $5.1 million right away, instead utilizing $3.8 million.

Because it’s payable in 2019, the school district will only get half of the opt out amount for the 2018-2019 school year. A total amount would first be collectable for the 2019-2020 school year.

The opt out will go up with inflation each year and would require approval by the school board when it’s going through the budget process each year.

According to their materials, “The (school) board … utilized an inflationary factor of 2.5 percent over 10 years to arrive at the amount of $5.1 million.”

During the Monday night board meeting, the opt out update focused on how the school district will go about informing the public about the opt out, the reasons the district is pursuing it and its impact on taxpayers and the district’s budget and programming.

One of those education pieces is a physical document that will be available at the school buildings, the school district office and can be found on the district website.

“We’re going to hand those out at school functions, making them available for people when they drop off kids at school,” as well as at any public information meetings about the opt out, Willert said.

“This is just a means and method to get the information out about those big tenets … that were developed by the administrative team regarding class sizes, a safe, supportive and secure learning environment, then just addressing some of those questions about why are we looking at considering” an opt out, Willert said.

They’ve also added extensive information on the school district webpage (www.brookings.k12.sd.us). Along the top row of tabs, there is now one dedicated to the opt out. When clicked, people can then follow links on the left side of the page to a general overview of the opt out, a page that will be updated with meeting dates for community engagement, voter information, an overview of district finances, the potential tax impact, frequently asked questions and a page where people can submit questions of their own.

“We’ve been working pretty hard to get information out because I know there have been a lot of questions already, and I know that our job is to inform. I’ve shared on the radio, I’ve shared on the Monday Memo that my No. 1 goal is to have our populace be informed voters when they go to the polls and they understand completely what is being asked of them,” Willert said.

After hearing about the measures the district is taking to compile information, talk shifted to how many public information sessions should be scheduled before the April 10 vote on the opt out. Although no dates or times have been set yet, the board reached a consensus to schedule three such meetings, with multiple meetings times on each of those days so that they’re as accessible as possible to the public. One of the goals was to hold as many as two of those meetings before early voting starts March 26. 

According to Willert, he’s already made a presentation to the Chamber of Commerce board regarding the opt out and will do the same for school staff on Wednesday.

Contact Eric Sandbulte at [email protected]

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