Soon, the Brainerd School Board will have to make a decision as to whether it will ask district residents to support an operating levy referendum. The district’s current local levy revenue of $199 per pupil unit expires at the end of the 2011-12 school year. The deadline to decide on whether to go to the polls is Aug. 26.
When that levy expires the district will see a $2 million decrease in revenues which would mean that without a replacement levy of some kind $2 million would have to be cut from its budget.
While we don’t know what the school board will do it seems almost inconceivable that some sort of operating levy will not be sought. The difficult task before the board is to balance the needs of the school district with the willingness of the taxpayers to support their schools. Superintendent Steve Razidlo recently noted that 90 percent of the state’s school districts have an operating levy and that local levies are on average 14 percent of a district’s total funding while Brainerd’s current levy is 3 percent of the district’s total funding.
We think there’ll be a levy referendum and that its successful passage will require a considerable effort from its proponents. The common scenario when school levy referendums fail is that there is no organized effort to defeat it. Often school boards are left wondering why a levy question failed.
Critics of an operating levy referendum — and there will be critics — would do us all a service if they would clearly articulate their objections. Chances to voice objections, opinions or support can be found at any of the district’s four listening sessions, the first of which is 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Brainerd High School. More opportunities will be available if the school district decides to take a levy referendum to the voters.
There’s no telling what voters will do at the polls but we certainly don’t want a possible levy referendum to fail because of apathy or lack of information.