I am a parent, business owner, neighbor and a member of the ISD 728 School Board. I am also a taxpayer.
I am writing this is because I have one child currently in an ISD 728 school and another who will start next year. Both of my children and thousands of others will be affected by the outcome of two levy questions that I, as a School Board director, voted to put on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The first ballot question simply renews for another 10 years an existing levy that allows ISD 728 to continue receiving funding at roughly the same rate as it was approved by taxpayers in 2003. The second question is for a new 10-year levy that, if approved by voters, will provide $400 more per student through 2023.
I want to be clear that I support these two questions and that I believe our school district is doing the best it can with the taxpayers’ dollars. I believe it is my civic responsibility to support what is best, not only for our schools, but also for our communities, while being fiscally conservative. I also want to make sure that my hard-earned money, as well as yours, is being spent wisely and responsibly. My bottom line is I feel that after voters decide these two questions, we as a School Board will have clear direction on what our tax payers want for public education in ISD 728.
On Election Day, voters will need to make informed, educated decisions. When looking at these two questions I need to emphasize three important points:
First, funding for continued operating expenses applies to both questions. Revenues from the first question have supported operating expenses first approved by voters in 2003. The passage of Question 1 allows these funds to continue. These funds represent 5 percent of the current budget, meaning if Question 1 fails significant reductions in staff, programs and services will take place. A portion of the second ballot question is also for ongoing operating costs, primarily to replace one-time federal stimulus money and one-time compensatory aid ISD 728 received over past three years. I need to add that $2.3 million of what is being requested is directed to the classroom and student support services.
Second, even with passage of both questions, ISD 728 will still need to address a projected $2 million deficit. If the first question passes and the second does not (the second cannot pass on its own), the deficit climbs to $5 million. If both questions are not passed, our district will need to reduce the operating budget by a total of $12 million. This means class sizes will reach all-time highs and that the quality education we expect for our kids will be harder to deliver.
Third, research proves strong schools lead to strong, vibrant communities with good economies. Good communities are attractive for families and make business success more possible. Investments in public schools do pay out over the long run.
As a school board director I know the facts, but I want you, my neighbors, friends and business acquaintances, to know them as well. The district website is www.elkriver.k12.mn.us/2012/levy; it’s full of facts and even includes a tax calculator. As a parent, I ask that you consider every child who is or will become a student and consider their best interests on Election Day. As a business owner, to my peers I say these are not just our children, but our future work force. They are the future for our community and if we don’t support them as best we can, we will struggle as a community. As a taxpayer, to all who vote, I ask that you vote what is best, not only for our students, but for our communities as a whole. When you vote, please make informed decisions when it comes to our two ballot questions. — Shane Steinbrecher