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School levy limit opposed

A week before about a third of Minnesota school districts will be asking voters for more money, a Republican lawmaker is calling for restrictions on when school levies may be held.

Rep. Patrick Garofalo, R-Farmington, who is chair of the Minnesota House Education Finance Committee, is proposing to restrict school levy referendum votes to even-numbered years, when history shows they are less likely to be approved.

On Tuesday, more than 100 school districts, including Brainerd and Pine River-Backus, will ask voters to support school levy questions.

Voter turnout is almost always higher on even-numbered years when races for state and federal offices are on the ballot.

Garofalo says school levy votes deserve the attention of more voters.

Brainerd Superintendent Steve Razidlo said the Brainerd school levy election is necessary in an off-year because the district’s existing $199.24 per pupil evy will otherwise expire. In addition to the levy renewal request, the district is asking for an additional $200 per pupil levy on Tuesday’s ballot.

Razidlo said he and his staff have offered to meet with Garofalo to discuss school funding issues and so far his office has refused the offer.

“Recent statements by Rep. Garofalo and others lead me to believe that there’s a fundamental lack of understanding about the lack of state funding on our students, our staff and our community,” said Razidlo. “We’re still working on a big I.O.U. from the state of Minnesota and at the same time Rep. Garofalo seems to be concerned about when school levy elections can be held. We’re wondering if the I.O.U., that could be $15 million to Brainerd Public Schools this year, will ever be fully repaid.”

In order to balance the state budget, the state delayed aid payments to districts, including Brainerd Schools, which was forced to borrow money and incur interest to have enough cash in its coffers to pay its staff and bills.

“We continue to hope the state will understand that what is occurring in Minnesota is a widening gap between communities in terms of their ability to pay increasing property taxes and their ability to prepare students for an increasingly competitive world,” Razidlo said.

The Minnesota School Boards Association opposes the proposal, saying that voters in odd-year elections are better informed because they aren’t caught up in partisan races for Congress and the White House.

(This story contains information provided by The Associated Press.)

JODIE TWEED may be reached at or 855-5858.