Alden-Conger Schools ask for help with new referendum

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(ABC 6 News) – Come election day, Alden-Conger Public Schools will ask taxpayers to increase property taxes to help pay for the local school. Some residents say small town people can’t afford to pay big city taxes, but others say if this referendum is what they need to keep small town schools alive, they will pay it.

Longtime Alden resident Jim Bute wants to keep people from leaving Alden. That is why he says he supports the new referendum. He recounts recently seeing a sign on his way out of town.

“When the last person leaves Alden, will they please turn off the lights?”

A former educator himself, he says the school is like glue for small communities like Alden and Conger — holding them together.

“It’s been a wonderful system. All of our kids went through it, and now all of our grandkids and great grandkids are going through it,” Bute said.

There will be two questions on the November 8 ballot.

One asks to renew the current operating levy of $206 per pupil. The second asks to increase that dollar amount to $1086 per pupil. For example, those that have a home valued at $150,000 will pay more than $590 a year.

Superintendent Brian Shanks says he knows that sounds like a huge number.

“Me and the board do owe an explanation to the community as to why we need the money, what we’re going to use it for,” Shanks said.

But a perfect storm of the pandemic, low enrollment, and a teacher shortage, means the district is low on funds.

“We’re not looking to do anything other than fund what occurs within the building,” Shanks said, adding that the district isn’t looking for any upgrades or new athletic centers.

He hopes enrollment is on it’s way back up, but says until then, the district is missing about $400,000 in revenue.

“In order to continue, or at least fight the fight, we’re going to need a little help.”

Shanks also wants competitive wages for teachers. He is worried about losing teachers to companies like Target or Walmart, who have both increased starting wages to above a teachers salary. However, some residents don’t want the burden on taxpayers. They want to know what else the district is doing to increase funds, like applying for grants.

The new levy, if passed, will last for 10 years. The district will hold a public meeting Wednesday, October 12 at 7pm for more information on the referendum. Meeting details can be found here.