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Mille Lacs County, Minnesota

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Wednesday July 9, 2008

No Privatization for Nexus!

by Hannabelle

Mille Lacs News Staff Writer

 

There was a little blurb in the Mille Lacs Messenger a few weeks ago which casually mentioned that Mille Lacs Academy will not be privatized. You might have missed it. It was buried in an article by Diane Gibas entitled "Onamia, Nexus come to agreement." We've been waiting for some sort of follow up on this story, but since it is bad news for Nexus, the Pronexus Messenger once again failed to fully inform the public. That's what we're here for.

 

PRIVATIZATION: WHAT IT MEANS

 

Privatization of their school was one of the conditions Nexus demanded be met in order for the juvenile sex offender facility to remain in Onamia. Currently the adolescent sex offenders receive onsite education through the Onamia public school system, which provides teachers and staff to MLA. Nexus collects money from the sex offenders' home districts to pay the Onamia school - about $10,000 per student per year. MLA has about 94 inmates and about nine in their group home. So we're talking roughly a million dollars that Nexus must pay to the Onamia school system per year.

 

If Nexus was allowed to privatize their school, they would take over the hiring of teachers and staff, who would be, according to Nexus, non-union workers. (Being non-union could present a difference in salary and benefits, allowing Nexus to pay what they want, not what they have to.)  Instead of having to pay the approximate million dollars to the Onamia school district, Nexus would keep the money themselves.

 

Nexus has privatized schools at two of their other institutions, including Gerard Academy in Austin, Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Education has said that the privatization model used at the Gerard Academy is not state-compliant. Also, there have been some difficulties in over-seeing Nexus' private program.

 

While privatization might be financially beneficial to Nexus, it would be detrimental to Onamia students. This may be one reason why Onamia school superintendent John Varner opposed the privatization of the Mille Lacs Academy. The significantly lowered student count would impact the amount of Federal money currently available to the Onamia school district.

 

JOBS

 

If Nexus was allowed to privatize, approximately 15 school employees who currently work at Mille Lacs Academy through the public school system would be out of a job. Nexus had stated that they intended to hire some of these same people, however these workers are currently employed not by MLA but by the Onamia school district. They would have to quit or be let go from their Onamia jobs in order to switch over to a non-unionized MLA position. Also, with 60 % of MLA employees living outside of the county, and with gas at $4 per gallon, they might be hard-pressed to find workers to commute for non-union wages or benefits.

 

TAX ABATEMENT

 

In order to qualify for property tax abatement in the city of Onamia, sixteen new jobs were to be created. Nexus proposed that the 15 jobs currently held at the Onamia school qualify as new jobs created by Nexus. Of course, that would mean a loss of 15 jobs and the transfer (not the creation) of those jobs. However, only one new position of school principal would have been created.

 

Likewise, Nexus' proposed job creation while applying for property tax abatement with Mille Lacs County was dependent upon privatization of their school.

 

Without privatization of Nexus' school, the jobs necessary to meet qualifications for tax abatement - both at the city and county levels - are non-existent. If the Onamia city council and the Mille Lacs board of county commissioners are paying attention, they can now withdraw the tax abatements due to Nexus' failure to meet the standard requirements of creating the new jobs. The property taxes which Nexus would be forced to pay would be a huge asset to the community. Since Nexus has committed to building in Onamia, these taxes would be one bullet that Nexus would have to bite.

 

If the recent bankruptcy of Izaty's has taught us one thing, it should be that tax abatements don't work in the long run. This is a huge opportunity for our local leaders to make smart decisions concerning Nexus and their property taxes. After all, despite their threats of leaving, Nexus is still here. They are well into the excavation of the 38.81 acres. They're not going anywhere, even if they have to pay taxes now.

 

PROPERTY TAXES

 

According to plans for the sex offender institution, parts of the administration building such as classrooms and offices are set up for the anticipated private school, which are, of course, tax exempt. Having privatization denied could mean that less area would be exempt, with more area taxed - which would be good for the community as well. Whereas the inmates, except for those in the group home, must continue to be taught away from the mainstream, only part of Nexus' plans will probably have to change. They will still get some property tax relief. The sex offenders in the group home will continue to mingle with the regular student body.

 

Onamia, Nexus come to agreement?

 

Hardly. Nexus demanded privatization. When Nexus was denied, (something we just don't see every day,) their reaction was to demand that the Onamia school district then pay rent to Nexus. Think about it... Nexus demands more of our tax dollars for Onamia public school faculty and staff to rent their new building for teaching Mille Lacs Academy sex offenders who wouldn't be here if not for Nexus. At the rate of $23 per student per day, that really adds up. With 94 students that is $51,888 per month. With a twelve month Mille Lacs Academy school year, that amounts to over a half million dollars in RENT.

 

Hopefully, Nexus will be denied that too. Somewhere, a line must be drawn which Nexus can't cross.

 

 

Congratulations Onamia School Superintendent John Varner!

Finally someone has the courage to stand up against the unreasonable demands of Nexus.

Multi-dipping?

Again?

Nexus already bills inmate's home school districts for education costs.

Where does it end?

I don't get it. Shouldn't Nexus be paying the school district instead of expecting them to pay for Nexus?

Shouldn't Nexus be paying property taxes instead of getting tax abatement and using our tax dollars to pay their executives huge, outrageous salaries?

Shouldn't Nexus be...

Oh, just shut up! Anyone with half a brain can see how Nexus is screwing everyone in the county!

(There must be a lot of quarter-brainers around here.)

 

 

Here's looking at you, Kid!

NIMBY

 

 

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