On January 25th, the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) and the Deforest Area School District agreed to a swap of attendance boundaries that would shorten commute times for future students in both districts, and allow them to attend schools that are closer to home.
A memo written by MMSD staffers describes the swap as a “win-win,” aimed at better aligning school district boundaries over time.
The MMSD will forfeit a small piece of land, about 13 acres near the Dane County Airport, to the Deforest Area School District. In exchange, the MMSD will inherit two pieces of land on Packers Avenue, both near two MMSD elementary schools.
The full effect of this swap will likely not be felt right away, as the areas involved in the trade are currently undeveloped farmland. Future students in those districts, however, will likely see reduced commute times.
School districts are independent taxing districts, so a slight shift in ownership means a slight change in taxation. Deforest will likely see an increase in tax revenue as a result of the swap, but the MMSD will likely see a decrease of about $100,000, a number described in the MMSD memo as “immaterial.”
Alder Rebecca Kemble represents the district where the new MMSD acres are located. Speaking with WORT, Kemble emphasized that the benefits of the trade far outweigh the small amount of lost tax revenue.
“How do you put a value on a cohesive community? How do you put a value on neighbors being able to go to school with their kids, neighbors not having to drive 15 minutes away in a snowstorm everyday to take their kids to or from school, or for after-school activities. It’s just, it’s priceless,” Kemble said.
In October, the Madison Common Council rejected a resolution to annex the areas that are now going to the MMSD. The original plan would’ve left both areas in the Deforest School District, in spite of the two MMSD elementary schools that are right nearby.
Following this rejection, representatives from both districts worked out the current trade to bring these areas into MMSD boundaries, and provide the Deforest district with alternate land to prevent any loss of tax revenue.
In the MMSD Board of Education meeting on Monday, President Gloria Reyes expressed her gratitude to both districts for cooperating with the city to help this deal happen.
“I think this is a really great example of what can come out of planning ahead and negotiations. I think this is a benefit to both Deforest and MMSD, and thank you to our MMSD staff for leading this effort and partnering with the city and Deforest in making this happen,” Reyes said.
Reyes also expressed gratitude to Alder Kemble, who played a large role in working with both districts to try and reach an agreement about this land. Kemble expressed a similar admiration for the cooperation of the school districts in making their final decision.
“What really prevailed in this case was the future needs of the people and the children who live there and it’s just so satisfying that we could come together to support that,” Kemble said.