At the School Board meeting on August 8, the Board approved holding a special election on November 8, 2011, for the purpose of voting on the following two questions:
Question 1 asks the community to approve an operating levy for $1,604 per pupil for ten (10) years beginning in the 2012-13 school year. This levy would replace the current operating levy of $1,270 per pupil two years before it is set to expire. An operating levy is a funding option provided by the State to allow school districts to request authority from the community to locally provide the necessary revenue to operate their schools. Here is a brief history:
• By spending very conservatively since cutting 14% from the District’s budget and receiving community approval for the current operating levy referendum beginning in the 2006–07 school year, the District has avoided cuts through 2010- 11 despite the failure of the State to provide additional funding. Outside contracts for goods and services were renegotiated, reducing costs by $405,000 per year while recent two-year employee salary settlements included no cost of living increases for any of our 500 staff.
• For 2011-12, the Northfield School District made significant cuts ($700,000) that will impact class sizes, educational programs and services for children in our community. The School Board approved using $1,400,000 from the fund balance to offset additional cuts.
• To balance their budget, the State has not provided any additional funding for the last three years and withheld or shifted 30% of the District’s State Aid until the next school year. For the 2011-13 biennium, the State increased the shift to 40% to balance the State’s budget, further compromising our School District’s ability to support students by voting to hold back an additional $2.4 million in State Aid to Northfield. A small State Aid increase will likely be offset by borrowing costs incurred due to the 40% shift in State Aid.
• The new proposed operating levy authority would increase each year at the rate of inflation. This levy will allow the School District to have greater financial stability that would avoid additional staff and education program cuts for the next several years and would reduce future cuts in student programs and services for the next 10 years.
Question 2 asks the community to renew the current Capital Projects Levy of $750,000 for an additional 10 years when it expires in 2013-14. Passage of ballot question #2 for the Capital Projects Levy is contingent on the successful passage of ballot question #1 for the Operating Levy. If the Operating Levy does not pass, the Capital Projects Levy will not pass even if it has enough votes. A Capital Projects Levy is a funding option provided by the State to allow school districts to maintain and update facilities and to replace instructional technology and textbooks. Funds raised by a Capital Project Levy can only be used for facilities, technology and textbooks.
• The School District faces significant needs in order to maintain to a high standard over 760,000 square feet of buildings and over 153 acres of land for our students and to regularly replace or upgrade instructional technology and textbooks for their use.
• The proposed Capital Projects Levy will provide $750,000 each year for ten years after the current Capital Projects Levy expires. This levy will be used exclusively to maintain buildings and grounds, and to replace instructional technology and textbooks.
The School District will provide comprehensive information to all residents of the community in the coming weeks. Please direct any questions to Superintendent Dr. Chris Richardson, 507.663.0629.