Fewer school districts seek levy referendums this yearby Tim Post, Minnesota Public Radio
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota voters will see far fewer requests for funding from schools through tax levies on their fall ballots.
Of the state's 337 school districts, so far only 36 have told the Minnesota School Boards Association that they plan to ask voters for money this fall through levy referendums.
School boards association officials say levy requests could go as high as 40 to 50 once final numbers are released by the state Department of Education later this week.
Still that's many fewer than last year, when 130 districts approached voters for financial help to pay teacher salaries, buy textbooks or renovate or build classrooms.
The decline in levy requests likely has to do with the fact that nearly 80 percent of the districts that sought them last year successfully convinced voters to approve their requests, said Greg Abbott, spokesman for the Minnesota School Boards Association.
"When that happens usually your next year is going to be a lot lower because most of the districts got what they needed to get by for the next year," he said.
Abbot said there's another reason for the decreased number of levy requests: a full ballot. If they can, districts like to avoid election years when Minnesotans are considering local, state and national elections.
"There's so much attention to the presidential race and even the state and congressional races," Abbott said, "that sometimes the information you're trying to get out on why you need that money gets lost."
The school boards association's summer survey on potential tax levy questions showed that Minnesota districts are not asking for as much money as they have in the past. Only five of the 36 districts seeking higher levies are asking for more than $500 per student, Abbott said.
The biggest request on a per pupil basis so far is $1,000 per student per year for the 350 students in the Stephan-Argyle district in northwest Minnesota.
The biggest operating levy request overall is $39 million per year in the St. Paul district. The smallest is a request to continue the Milaca school district's levy referendum which amounts to $1 per student per year.
- Morning Edition, 08/29/2012, 7:45 a.m.