Fewer school districts asking for levy approval this electionby Tim Post, Minnesota Public Radio
ST. PAUL, Minn. — A relatively small number of Minnesota school districts are asking local tax payers to approve operating levies this Election Day.
Forty districts have levy referendums on the ballot. About half of the districts are asking voters to continue levies that are already in place, the other half are asking voters for an increase.
Last year, 130 districts came to voters with hats in hand. This fall, it appears that school districts are avoiding asking voters during busy election years for fear their pleas for taxpayer help will be lost amid the campaign activity.
Levy requests vary widely across the state. The districts in Barnum, Milaca, McGregor and Peqout Lakes are asking for $1 per student. Meanwhile the Red Lake Falls, Fosston, Red Wing and Clearbrook-Gonvick districts are asking for more than $1,000 per student per year. The Hendricks Public School District levy is $2,000 per student.
School officials say they are forced to turn to voters with levy requests because state funding has not kept pace with rising expenses in recent years.
A handful of Minnesota districts are asking voters to pitch in additional tax money to pay for capital projects such as construction, repairs and technology needs.
Here are some of the levy races MPR News will be watching Tuesday night:
• The St. Paul School District is asking voters to renew a $646 per student levy, and tack on another $175 for a proposed high tech teaching and learning effort. If passed the levy would mean $39M dollars a year for the St. Paul district.
• School officials in Frazee-Vergas are proposing a reduction in their school levy, from $1,000 to $700. School officials say it is an acknowledgement that the economy is tough. This appears to be the first time a Minnesota school district has ever proposed reducing the amount of its levy.
• Several school districts are warning that cuts will be necessary if their levies are voted down. But the school board in Fairmont has already voted on cuts that will be put in place automatically if their $450 levy increase does not pass. According to the Fairmont Sentinal the cuts axe high school sports, plays, music and art programs, and academic teams.