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GFW’s shrinking enrollment, revenue

To the editor:

In 1995 GFW’s K-12 enrollment was 1,072. It was 853 in 2005, and 751 in 2015 (Numbers from MN Dept of Ed) and is now below 700. The GFW website shows that enrollment has declined an average of 2.34% a year for the last eight years.

For years GFW has spent more money than it has taken in. In FY17 GFW spent $981,000 more than it’s revenue, and in FY18 it was $781,000. The school is in Statutory Operating Debt and is borrowing against future state aid to keep running. GFW is having an operating levy referendum on Aug. 11, with one goal being to help stabilize finances. If passed, the new operating levy would increase the total school tax paid per year on a $100,000 house in the district by 100%.

If the state pays the school district approximately $9,000 per student each year, and enrollment drops by 56 students, that’s a loss of state revenue of more than half a million dollars per year. If GFW’s enrollment keeps dropping, I don’t know how the school expects finances to be stable even with an increased operating levy. Declining enrollment is one of the reasons that schools consolidate because it becomes harder and harder to provide students with a quality education as the revenue shrinks.

Will increasing the levy benefit the students? GFW no longer has an art teacher or a high school library. It looks like GFW has become a training ground for teachers and administrators who want to get experience and move to a better position. GFW helps these people to advance their careers, but the students might not benefit much. It has been years since we had a superintendent who lived in the district, but they have told us how great it is to be a T-Bird. Our new superintendent, who started on July 1, has a lot of energy and hopes to turn things around at GFW. He said he believes GFW has great potential, and he doesn’t know why any student would leave GFW. Maybe he will consider moving here with his family sometime in the future. It must be hard to commute from Duluth.

Marc Kiecker

Fairfax

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