School Board considers fall levy options

by Jim Boyle

The Elk River Area School Board will consider its options Monday night for one, two or three operating levies.

Members of the School Board discussed the matter at its July 16 work session, concluding they needed to know what tax dollars could buy in the way of computer technology to advance the district’s mission.

They are also considering a proposal to add all day, every day kindergarten, which is one of its strategic plan’s primary goals. All day, every day kindergarten is being considered for more than just its educational merit. It’s also being considered to help prevent the district from losing families to other schools for such program options.

School board members reviewed budget, enrollment and taxpayer data at its July 16 meeting.   The district has three existing levies, of which two were renewed in 2008 and 2010. The third — the largest of the three — was approved in 2003.

By going to the voters this November, District 728 has two opportunities for passage before the levy expires.

The School Board is in general agreement to bring an operating levy renewal, but it must still decide whether to go with the additional questions to deal with curriculum and technology needs and the kindergarten program proposal.

The school district has an existing operating levy that generates nearly $400 per pupil unit that will expire in 2013. Without a successful renewal this fall, school board members said that budget cuts will be needed to be prepared after the coming school year to brace for the potential loss in revenue, because there would be no guarantees of passing a renewal in the fall of 2013.

The School Board is also aware that in the future, an operating levy will be needed just to maintain its current level of programming, as it is staring at future budget deficits that will have to be addressed one way or the other.

Randy Anderson, executive director of business services, is also looking at ways to create capacities to pay for future building projects through alternative facilities bonds and/or bond referendums that would not increase taxes beyond existing levels.

Discussion about this fall’s ballot will resume Monday at the School Board’s 6 p.m. work session at the District 728 offices.

School board members already know it would cost the owner of a $200,000 home about $33 for every $1 million levied for curriculum and technology, or about $100 a year for $3 million levy. Board members want to know now what $1 million would buy to assist in their decision making.

The third question being considered would add all day, every day kindergarten at a cost of about $2.2 million. A levy of about $150 per student would be needed to generate that amount of revenue.

An all-day, everyday kindergarten program for every child is one of the district’s goals to surface from its strategic planning effort. Without the approval of an operating levy, other programming would have to go to make this goal a reality.

The School Board has tentatively scheduled a vote on ballot questions for its Aug. 30 business meeting.