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Wednesday, February 2nd, 2005 -- 11:08 AM

It was ?Merger Monday? yesterday as 4 school boards held two joint meetings to discuss cooperation and consolidation ? and, at least one of those meetings, 8 of 10 school board members felt consolidation between area schools was at least ?somewhat likely? in five years.

The Neillsville and Greenwood school boards got together in Greenwood; meanwhile, the Granton and Loyal school boards met in Loyal.

In Greenwood, consolidation was the focus of a meeting that was well attended ? but almost exclusively by Greenwood school district residents.

WCCN News conducted an unscientific and anonymous straw poll of the two boards after the meeting; it showed both boards think that there is at least a chance of consolidation in the next five years.

When asked if consolidation was ?unlikely?, ?somewhat likely? or ?very likely? in the next five years:

1 Neillsville school board member said he thought consolidation was unlikely; 2 Neillsville school board members said it was somewhat likely; 2 said it was very likely

Meanwhile, 1 Greenwood school board member said it was unlikely, 1 said it was somewhat likely and 3 Greenwood board members said consolidation was very likely

By the numbers, consolidation would seem to benefit the Greenwood school district more than Neillsville?s; but down the road, it was noted both schools could stand to benefit thanks to Neillsville?s projected declining enrollment. Mike Clark from Robert W. Baird explained there are currently about 15 consolidation talks happening around the state. He said consolidation has been happening since the early 1900?s, but remains ?very uncommon?.

One reason could be the complexity of the process that would require a lot of planning and likely plenty of concessions on both sides.

It almost certainly would require referenda being passed in each school district; and at least one of those districts would experience higher property taxes if consolidation were to happen. In Neillsville and Greenwood?s case, Neillsville?s tax rate would jump by a projected 63-cents ? and there?s no guarantees that tax rates would decrease or increase should consolidation occur.

Despite a large crowd, relatively few of those in attendance offered questions.

The boards agreed to devise a list of questions that they will present to each other down the road.

Some from the Greenwood camp told WCCN that they believe a revenue cap exemption referendum will likely be brought before voters again before consolidation is considered more seriously. The Greenwood board will likely take some action on their future at a meeting next Wednesday night.

Feel free to contact us with questions and/or comments.