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District dissolution discussed

By Staff | Aug 2, 2019

Sue Sitter/PCT Wolford School Board President Jeff Slaubaugh (left) makes a note for Wolford School Superintendent Larry Zavada (right).

The Wolford School Board met at the former Wolford High School library Tuesday evening to continue the process of dissolving their community’s school district.

The board voted unanimously to dissolve the district on June 30, 2020, and discussed a timeline for events to follow.

The meeting began with a review and closing of the district’s 2018-2019 school year.

New officers for 2019-2020 were sworn in. Jeff Slaubaugh, elected to the board in a June 18 special election, was voted president for the term. Jeff Morrow was named vice president for the term, which primarily consists of duties involved in eliminating the district.

Wolford School closed permanently in May, leaving families to find other districts or educational options for their children.

The board pored over financial statements and discussed the need to pay other districts tuition and transportation fees for the former Wolford students.

Business Manager Wanita Olson presented the board with preliminary budget balances for various operating funds and payments to Leeds, Rugby and Rolette public school districts. Projected payments by Wolford include tuition of approximately $12,000 for three students who will attend Leeds’ school and approximately $81,500 in tuition for 14 students slated to attend school in Rolette.

Wolford School District Superintendent Larry Zavada asked Olson to review the per-pupil tuition amounts quoted by the Rolette district with Rolette staff later this week.

Rugby Public Schools Superintendent Mike McNeff attended part of the meeting, and told the board Rugby schools would not charge the Wolford district tuition for students. However, Rugby schools will charge $45,900 to the Wolford district for transportation, which includes services from Hartley’s buses and a driver.

McNeff estimated 10 Wolford students were enrolled in Rugby schools as of Tuesday.

“That ($45,900) is the cost of transportation for those students, taken directly from Hartley’s school buses, and that’s what we get charged per route in Rugby $5,100 per month,” McNeff noted.

Olson and Zavada told the board the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction would provide no money to the Wolford district to pay student tuition and fees.

Wolford resident Paul Overby asked the board for clarification: “So, the state gets a pass on 45 kids?”

Zavada and Olson answered, “Yes, for a year.”

“We would get our state aid if we were operating next year; our state aid would be based on last year, along with our transportation. But because we’re not operating, we get nothing from the state at all.” Zavada said.

“That’s why we’re in a tight spot, Paul. We want to keep our mills as low as we have; we’ve always tried to do that, but we don’t get a penny from the state, and we (have to pay tuitions), and we still (possibly have to demolish the building).

Olson noted, “Even with our mills completely maxed out, we have lower property taxes than Rugby or Rolette, and Leeds.”

Overly also asked a timeline of the Wolford School District’s dissolution process, which would affect tax assessments for properties surrounding the community. School taxes once allocated to Wolford would go to Pierce and Rolette Counties after August 1 per North Dakota Century Code 15.1-12-26.

“I spoke yesterday with the (North Dakota) Assistant Attorney General and they meet on September 16, and sometime after the 16 th, we will get a legal interpretation of (the process); absolutely nothing beforehand,” Zavada said.

Zavada continued, “And speaking with her yesterday, she said we’re in great shape time-wise as far as our (dissolution) process.

“We won’t know a single thing until after (September) 17, and because our agenda’s basically set for August 19, it will be on the August 19 agenda that this will be an upcoming item for September,” Zavada added.

The meeting, held by the North Dakota State Board of Public School Education, will be held in Bismarck at 1:00 p.m., September 16.

Olson told the board she was waiting to hear from North Dakota Director of School Finance Adam Tescher for information on the district’s budgeting procedures.

Financial topics included preparing the building and its contents for sale and bids for maintenance, a new roof and new boiler, and to provide information to parties interested in buying the building.

Zavada told the board Pierce County Assessor Kelsey Siegler would visit the school August 21 to determine the value of the property.

“We have so many things that are iffy. If we are going to sell the building and the contents, what is the value of (them)?” Zavada asked.

Items already sold include a high-mileage red Chevrolet Suburban, sold for $1350, and the Wolford School bus, which Rolette School District purchased for $2000.

The board plans to have rummage sale of school equipment August 10 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the school.

Zavada presented a list of future uses for the school building, which included full or partial demolition (partial demolition would save older parts of the building not needing roof repairs); selling the building or donating the building. Zavada said a person interested in leasing the building for a facility to produce hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) products had made an inquiry.

The board voted to form a committee of residents and board members to come up with a plan for the building. Olson cited the renovation of the Harriman building in the community of Maddock as an example.

Suggestions for the building’s future may be made by contacting the school at 583-2387, or at Facebook on the Wolford Public School page.

The Wolford School Board will hold their next meeting Monday, August 19 at 7:00 a.m.

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