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Russell-Tyler-Ruthton School District releases survey results

More than 75 percent of respondents support a facility building bond

TYLER — Survey results from residents in the Russell-Tyler-Ruthton School District reveal that 77 percent support a facility building bond and that nearly 71 percent feel the best way to meet the needs is to build a new facility.

RTR Superintendent Dave Marlette was pleased with the number of people who took time to fill out the surveys. He has stressed that the process needs to be bottom-up with the community driving the outcome rather than the board or administration making those difficult decisions.

“I think there’s a good nucleus there that do feel that we need to do something,” Marlette said. “There’s always going to be some opposition — they get one vote, just like everybody else.”

Marlette said there were 636 survey takers.

“RTR has 2,068 registered voters in our district, so this means that we had over 30 percent of our stakeholders take the survey,” Marlette said. “This is really good as usually only 10-15 percent is what you would expect to take this type of survey. This shows we have a very interested group of stakeholders. The survey shows that we have a very large percentage of stakeholders that want us to get something built and they will support the facility bond tax increase. It’s time.”

The community facility survey was divided into four sections of questions. The first part included general questions to gather information about each of the survey takers. Secondly, questions gauged the amount of support for improving facilities before any information was given. The next part weighed the level of support after being given a list of information about the facilities and needs. The final portion of questions analyzed the amount of support for improving the facilities after being told about the proposed tax impact on each of them.

“What really stood out is that when we kind of asked them similar questions three times, the results stayed pretty level,” Marlette said. “I think a lot of people feel we had put this off for a long time. I believe that 40 percent Ag2School credit is helping with some of the decisions. That’s been a positive.”

Sixty-one percent of survey takers were female. Forty-six percent lived in the Tyler precinct, while 27 percent were from Russell and 26 percent were from Ruthton. Residents between the ages of 35-44 represented 28 percent of the survey takers, while only 4.6 percent were between 18-35. Responses from individuals in the other age groups represented between 14-18 percent.

Nearly 53 percent of those taking the survey responded that they were not parents of a current RTR student. More than 56 percent said they were not a parent of a past RTR student, though 54 percent said they were alumni from RTR or one of the three districts before they combined.

Initially, nearly 90 percent were in favor of supporting the need to improve the RTR facilities. Fifty-five percent initially favored building new, while more than 31 percent thought a combination of remodeling and building new was the best option. Ten percent preferred remodeling in the district and nearly 3 percent did not support facility improvements.

Initially, 66 percent of survey takers favored having one site, while 18.7 percent favored keeping all three sites and 15 percent were undecided.

After being informed of the facility needs and the tax impacts, nearly 76 percent favored the option of one site, while just shy of 15 percent preferred three sites and 9 percent was undecided.

On the final question of if the district stakeholders approve building one new K-12 centralized facility, what location or city should the facility be built in, 65 percent said Tyler. Nearly 29 percent of the survey takers favored a neutral site, while 4.8 said Russell and 1.4 voted for Ruthton.

When asked if they believe the current school facilities cause concern for young families who may want to move into one of the district communities, nearly 74 percent said yes. More than 76 percent also felt that approving the facility improvement bond would allow the district to increase program offerings for students, increase the student population and market the district to attract more open enrolled students.

“I was so tickled to death to see the number of people who took the time to take the survey,” Marlette said. “Then I was really excited to see what the outcome of the survey was. Now I’m really excited about the task force looking at the options and making a decision.”

A 2018 RTR Community Task Force on Facilities was formed, consisting of 37 members — roughly 11 from each district along with Marlette and RTR School Board building committee members Peggy Dunblazier, Tami Nelson and Tony Dybdahl.

“The task force will be coming up with a recommendation on what to do,” Marlette said. “That will probably happen in the next few weeks. Then the board will make a decision on whether or not to move forward. I think the board is anxious to move forward, too. Then we’d start to move forward to have an election.”

Marlette noted that it would take some take before an election regarding the facilities could take place. During that time, he felt it was important to continue educating the public about the needs and options.

“We’re excited by the interest in the district,” he said. “As to looking at and identifying that it’s time to do something, we’re just trying to figure out what that something is.”

If the recommendation comes forward and is approved by the board, Marlette anticipates that an election would take place in the spring. While it seems that a lot of people are on-board with passing a facilities bond, he said there’s no way to definitively know until after an election.

“We’ll never know for sure till they get behind the curtain at the voting booth,”

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