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Support our Schools, WCPC release campaign financial reports

WORTHINGTON — The Independent School District 518’s ongoing attempts at passing a bond referendum for a new high school has some area residents dipping into their personal pocketbooks.

The district’s current $68.5 million bond proposal is no different, as select individuals have made personal financial contributions in hopes of either passing or defeating the Feb. 13 referendum.

In accordance with Minnesota state law, the Support our Schools and Worthington Citizens for Progress committees have submitted their respective financial statements to the district. Both committees’ public campaign financial reports may be reviewed on the district’s website under the District and School Board tabs. The statements include an itemized list of individuals, their  location, employer, amount and date on contributions of $100 or more.

At first glance, the recent tallies available indicate that Support our Schools campaign has more cash-on-hand ($6,457.15) than the Worthington Citizens for Progress Campaign ($4,632.62).  

However, the anti-referendum group has received far more in contributions and spent more in disbursements.

In a financial report submitted Jan. 31 by Worthington Citizens for Progress Co-Treasurer Tom Prins, the group spent $18,417 from Dec. 15, 2016 to present in an effort to defeat the referendum.

Of that total, $15,895.87 was paid to Paul Dorr’s business, Copperhead Consulting, which has worked in the past to defeat various local governmental funding proposals.

The WCPC has received some criticism for hiring Dorr, of Ocheyedan, Iowa. WCPC counters that its consulting services are funded by private contributions as opposed to the district’s contracted equivalent.

The WCPC received $20,236.41 cash donations from March 2017 to present. It received an additional $408.15 of contributions listed as in-kind. Prins supplied all seven in-kind contributions, which were attributed to Facebook, presumably to boost its social media posts to reach a greater audience.

More than 25 local residents donated more than $100 or more each to the WCPC over the last year. These included known contributions from executive committee members: co-chair Don Brink, Rushmore, $2,300; co-chair Rob Kremer, $1,000; co-treasurer Tom Prins, Reading, $1,500 cash and $408.15 in-kind; and co-treasurer Wilber Prins, Reading, $1,000.

Other top financial supporters listed on the report included Gary Drost, Rushmore, $4,000; Alan Larson, Worthington, $1,750; and Greg Pronto, Reading, $1,000.

The Support our Schools committee has also received financial contributions from local residents hopeful for referendum approval after multiple failed attempts.

According to the report filed Jan. 23 by Gary Hoffman — which was the most recent available report by presstime — the Support our Schools committee had received $6,390 from area residents and has made no disbursements.

Top financial supporters include Education Minnesota, Worthington (union), $2,330 total; Hoffman, Worthington, $400; Jason Turner, Worthington, $300; Joe Anderson, Worthington, $300; District 518 Superintendent John Landgaard, Worthington, $200; and District 518 Board of Education Member Steve Schnieder, $120.

Support our Schools is an independent committee from the school district.

However, the district has also been involved in disseminating information and hopeful for approval to build a new high school.  

The district approved hiring communications consultant Jeff Dehler of Dehler PR to help with that obligation and, according to the Sept. 19 board of education agenda, provide referendum communications services from Sept. 13 through Feb. 28.

Just as the WCPC has received criticism for its consultant, that group has also condemned the district for hiring Dehler.

On its website, the WCPC claims the district is paying Dehler PR over $40,000 of district tax payers’ dollars. According to the District 518 Board of Education’s Sept. 19 motion, the board approved entering a contract with Dehler up to an estimated $29,000.

The district also hired Dehler in June on a temporary basis for a communications audit, which analyzed the districts’ communication with a variety of individuals and was not related to the current referendum. That communication audit was approved for not more than $10,000.

Both the Support our Schools and WCPC campaign financial reports are not final.

Each committee is required to submit a pre-general report 10 days prior to the Feb. 13 special election and a post-general report 30 days following, which covers the period from 15 days before and through 25 days after the special election.