Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Virginia, Eveleth-Gilbert school districts plan to consolidate

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 11/6/19

REGIONAL— The Virginia and Eveleth-Gilbert school districts have announced their intent to consolidate some time next year.

Superintendents for both districts made that official with a letter …

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Virginia, Eveleth-Gilbert school districts plan to consolidate

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REGIONAL— The Virginia and Eveleth-Gilbert school districts have announced their intent to consolidate some time next year.

Superintendents for both districts made that official with a letter of intent they prepared for submission to the state Department of Education on Oct. 22.

“Both school districts have been working together for the past two years and recently, in May 2019, both school districts passed bond questions to build a new joint 7-12 high school and two new elementary schools,” stated the letter, signed by Virginia Superintendent Dr. Noel Schmidt and Eveleth-Gilbert Superintendent Jeff Carey.

The school officials have also contacted the St. Louis County Auditor to develop a consolidated plat of the proposed new district.

A joint powers board established by the two districts approved the outlines of the consolidation at a meeting on Monday. The plan will now need approval by the boards of both districts, which could come as early as next week.

Issues such as payment of existing debt, the future makeup of a combined school board, and where to build a new grades 7-12 school are all being addressed by the joint powers board for now.

A public vote on the consolidation is not automatically required, but residents in either district can require a referendum on the plan by submitting a petition signed by at least 25 percent of the eligible voters in the district. The entire consolidation process, including the process for petitioning for a public vote, is laid out in Minn. Stat. 123A.48.

While some details remain to be worked out, school officials recently got a look at the tax implications of the proposal. While both districts would continue to retire their bonded debt from their current tax base, even after consolidation, the excess operating levies would be paid by taxpayers across the new district. That would be good news for residents of Virginia, who have a larger operating levy. A $150,000 residence in Virginia, for example, would see an annual tax reduction of $74 under the plan, according to an analysis by Ehlers. In contrast, that same home in the Eveleth-Gilbert School District would see a tax increase of $108. A $250,000 commercial-industrial property in Eveleth or Gilbert would see a $189 increase while that same property in Virginia would see a savings of $111.

The proposed transformation of the future joint school board has been worked out. Under the plan, both school districts would initially be guaranteed at least three members on the new board, with one member elected at-large. That would change in 2025, however, with future boards to be elected entirely at-large.

The next meeting is set for Dec. 2

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