The board for Williston Public School District No. 1 unanimously rejected a proposal from another district to help with an addition to Williston High School, saying the two sides couldn’t agree on terms.
The board discussed the proposal from Williams County Public School District No. 8 at its regular meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 15.
In December, District 8 voted 5-0 to send a revised proposal to District 1 offering $3 million over two years for a 400-student addition to WHS. District 8 said the total amount was contingent on all current District 8 students who attend WIlliston High School remaining there for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years. If not all students went to WHS, the amount would be prorated.
The offer from District 8 didn’t reference tuition — District 1 board members have said tuition would be needed to cover the cost of the extra staff needed — and gave a deadline of Wednesday, Jan. 15.
The offer built on a proposal made by Williams County Commission President David Montgomery that would have had District 8 pay $3 million, District 1 use a promised $4 million grant and the county pay the balance for the $12 million addition.
Board member Cory Swint, who in December proposed halting discussions with District 8 until after a countywide education study wraps up in March, said he’d read the letter and didn’t think it made sense.
“it’s an offer that’s not really an offer, it’s to appear that they’re making a move when they’re really not,” Swint said.
Board Vice President Thomas Kalil said the proposal created major logistical problems.
“The framework they propose seems unworkable,” he said.
Board President Joanna Baltes pointed out that the board isn’t allow to move forward with any project unless they have the money to pay for it. Because District 8’s proposal included prorating District 8’s contribution, the board wouldn’t know how much of a shortfall — if any — the district would need to cover.
“i think it would be really fiscally irresponsible,” she said.
Swint made a motion to decline the offer.
“I feel like we’ve been extremely clear on this,” he said. “That’s why we moved to no longer discuss this.”
Board member Heather Wheeler wondered about making a counter offer, but said she agreed the board should decline the proposal from District 8.
“There are daily costs that are incurred for educating students,” she said about the importance of tuition payments.
Kalil said he thought the study of the county’s school districts still would be useful and suggested delaying any counter-offer until after the study is over.
“Let’s stick to our policy and just table any sort of counter offer until after the (study) comes back,” he said.