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$550,000 for Washington; other sites to be shuttered by district

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WILLMAR -- Washington Learning Center will be listed for sale at an asking price of $550,000.

The Willmar School Board adopted a resolution closing the building and approved a real estate listing agreement with Fenstra Real Estate.

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The board conducted a brief public hearing Monday afternoon on the closing of Washington and Lincoln Elementary School.

No one from the public asked to address the issue, and the hearing was opened and closed within a few minutes.

In the regular School Board meeting that followed, the board adopted separate resolutions closing the buildings. Each passed on a unanimous roll call vote. The board also discussed the possibility of conducting another operating levy referendum this fall.

The buildings are closing as the result of budget cuts last spring which included a reorganization of the elementary and middle school grades.

Washington, located at 325 Willmar Ave. S.W., was the home of the Willmar Community Education and Recreation Department in recent years. The department is moving to the former Jefferson Elementary School this summer.

The agreement with Fenstra Real Estate includes a 3 percent commission if the building is sold to a party that contacted the district about the building before the listing agreement was signed. The commission will be 6 percent if the building is sold to another buyer.

Affiliated Community Medical Centers, located east of the school building, approached the district several years ago to discuss purchasing the property. At that time, though, the board did not have immediate plans to close the building.

Washington is set to close no later than Sept. 30, according to the board's resolution. It will probably close earlier, said Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard.

Lincoln is scheduled to close after an addition to Roosevelt Elementary is finished. Until then, several classes of kindergarteners will attend school at Lincoln.

The completion date for the addition is Dec. 14, Kjergaard said, but that could be affected by weather or other factors.

The resolution closing Washington ordered that the building be listed for sale. The resolution for Lincoln did not order the sale, because the school will still be used during part of the next school year.

Kjergaard said the board's Buildings and Grounds Committee sought three proposals for the real estate listing, and recommended Fenstra to the board. The other agents asked for higher commissions.

The board discussed the possibility of an operating levy referendum this fall to bring more revenue into the district. No decisions were made Monday, but the board must decide before Sept. 11 about being on the November ballot this year.

The state tells school districts how much they can levy in local taxes for school operations. The only way a school district can raise additional revenue is through an operating levy.

Without additional revenue, the district may have to cut $1.4 million or more from its budget next spring, Kjergaard said.

Some board members said they would prefer to wait until a current $498 per student levy expires in 2012 to ask the voters for another one. Voters approved one of two levies the district sought in the 2008 election.

Another concern to the board was citizen support. An active citizen group promoted the two levies last fall.

"It would be early to ask those folks to mobilize again," said board chairman Brad Schmidt.

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Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340
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