GUEST COLUMN: Be informed, be present, be heard
Brainerd Public Schools’ current $199 per student operating levy, which provides approximately $2 million per year in revenue for our classrooms, was approved by voters in 2002 and will expire on June 30, 2012. That we know for sure. The Brainerd School Board has not decided how it will address the expiring levy and potential loss of district revenue. With an Aug. 26 deadline for informing the county of the district’s intentions for a possible November ballot question, the board is thoroughly evaluating a number of options.
What are these options? The school board is weighing six scenarios in terms of how much each will cost our community’s property owners as well as how much annual revenue each will bring in to the district.
• Non-renewal: Homeowners would see a decrease of about $40 per $100,000 home value on their tax bills. The district would lose approximately $2 million in annual revenue.
• $199/student Levy: Homeowners would see no change on their tax bills. The district would see no change in annual revenue.
• $249/student Levy: Homeowners would see an increase of about $10 per year on their tax bills. The district would gain approximately $350,000 in annual revenue.
• $299/student Levy: Homeowners would see an increase of about $20 per year on their tax bills. The district would gain approximately $700,000 in annual revenue.
• $349/student Levy: Homeowners would see an increase of about $30 per year on their tax bills. The district would gain approximately $1.05 million in annual revenue.
• $399/student Levy: Homeowners would see an increase of about $40 per year on their tax bills. The district would gain approximately $1.4 million in annual revenue.
With full knowledge of the impact its decision will have on the community and students, the school board is especially interested in gathering input and feedback as they consider options. The school board has scheduled a series of community listening sessions over the next two months, during which community members will have the opportunity to “be heard” regarding the district’s expiring operating levy.
The school board feels strongly about providing an opportunity for our community to be part of the decision-making process. As a result, these listening sessions will be just that — listening sessions. These sessions are intended to provide brief information relative to the issue and allow ample time for feedback from community members to help reach the best decision possible.
• Tuesday, July 26 at 6:30 p.m. in the Brainerd High School Cafeteria
•Monday, August 8 at 11:30 a.m. in Room 200 of Washington Educational Services Building.
• Tuesday, August 9 at 6:30 p.m. in the Forestview Cafetorium
• Thursday, August 11 at 6:30 p.m. in the Nisswa Elementary School Library.
Seeking an operating levy for school financing is not an unusual situation in the state of Minnesota. In fact, 90 percent of Minnesota school districts currently have an operating levy. On average, local operating levies account for 14 percent of districts’ general revenue in Minnesota. At $199 per student, Brainerd’s current operating levy is approximately 3 percent of its general revenue. All proposed scenarios the school board is reviewing are less than 50 percent of the average local levy for Minnesota school districts. Yet, our student’s academic results in reading and math are exceeding state averages.
We all know that this financial topic comes at a historical time in our national and local economy, but the reality we face is that our state continues to allow education funding to be pushed more and more to the local level. Your presence and voice at the listening sessions will be very important. It is my sincere hope that many of you will choose to “be present” and lend your voice to our discussion.
STEVE RAZIDLO is Brainerd School District superintendent.