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District may eye referendum in the fall

Over the next several months the Brainerd School Board may be preparing to seek support for a levy referendum, a vote that could take place in November.

The board met Saturday morning in a work session to discuss a variety of topics, including long-range planning goals, the state’s financial and demographic outlook and how this will impact the school district. 

Because Saturday’s meeting was scheduled as a workshop for discussion only, the board took no action.

Steve Lund, director of business services, gave an overview of the district’s financial picture. The district’s $199 per pupil unit levy, which produces about $2 million in revenue annually, will expire with the 2011-12 school year. If the district were to attempt to renew this levy without disruption, a vote would need to take place by November. 

About 90 percent of districts in the state have an operating levy. The state average is $863 per pupil unit. While in 2004 referendum revenue was about 8 percent of general revenue for districts in the state, this will increase to about 14 percent of general revenue by 2012, said Lund. 

Brainerd’s referendum revenue is about 3 percent of general revenue.

Superintendent Steve Razidlo told board members that districts can call for a levy vote once a year and if the board decides to do that the district would need to notify Crow Wing County within 50 days of the election. He said this would mean a decision would need to be made by August. 

The district may not know what’s going to happen with state educational funding until June, Razidlo explained. 

Lund told board members that operating levies — which pay for salaries and programs — are spread over a smaller tax base since seasonal properties are excluded from paying for them. Capital investments, which would include building, technology or infrastructure improvements, would be spread across the entire tax base in the district. 

“If you want to be more efficient, we need to go for capital improvements,” said Lund. “If we’re going to have to look to do more with less — less means less staffing — it may mean making capital investments.”

“If we need to make a decision by August, I feel a timetable needs to be developed for whether it’s an operating levy, a capital levy, or both,” said board chair Jim Hunt. 

Board member Ruth Nelson brought up the district’s long-range planning goals, which are still in development following several community planning sessions in December and January. She told board members that the district needs to address those priorities community and staff members helped develop and find out how much those would cost the district. 

Board member Kent Montgomery asked how the district can use its technology and buildings in other ways, such as partnering with other entities in the community.

Razidlo said the district is in ongoing discussions with five community partners about becoming more cost efficient and sharing resources, including discussions with Central Lakes College and Crow Wing County about sharing technology services. 

JODIE TWEED may be reached at or 855-5858.

Becca Clemens
After graduating high school in 2004, I attended Central Lakes College in Staples, MN for 2 years where I got a diploma in Communication Art and Design. I then transfered up to Bemidji State University in, you guessed it, Bemidji, MN. In the spring of 2009, I graduated from BSU. Then in the fall of 2009 I got a job at Echo Publishing, a sister company to the Brainerd Dispatch.