How do you sell a $5.75 million operating levy referendum?
One voter at a time.
Brainerd School Board members and school administrators have been on a non-stop mission to provide voters with information about the upcoming operating levy referendum. With a laptop computer and a Power Point presentation on the district's financial situation and the levy referendum, school officials have given dozens of tag team presentations in recent weeks at area churches, businesses, schools and coffee clubs - anywhere they're invited.
As Brainerd Assistant Superintendent Steve Razidlo told Baxter teachers at their staff presentation meeting Tuesday, "This is such a big vote for the community. We can't afford for people to go to the polls and not understand what the stakes are."
Those stakes, as school officials have said, include cutting $5.5 million from next year's budget if the referendum does not pass Nov. 6. These cuts will include closing two of the four smallest elementary schools, cutting 65-75 teaching positions and eliminating all middle school athletics/activities as well as eliminating 18 high school league sports and all other clubs and organizations with paid advisers. Class sizes will dramatically increase at all grade levels, students living less than two miles from the nearest school wouldn't qualify for bus transportation and parents would be forced to send their children to the nearest elementary school, eliminating school-of-choice options.
On Sunday, the Dispatch will take a look at how school officials are attempting to reach voters and spread their message. In addition, the Dispatch will provide answers to some of the frequently asked questions about the operating levy referendum.
Brainerd is not alone. More than 100 school districts in the state are asking taxpayers to support an operating levy referendum in their community. Look for a complete list Sunday.
If you haven't had an opportunity to hear a presentation about the operating levy referendum and have your own questions about the issue, Brainerd Superintendent Jerry Walseth will be answering your questions in the BrainerdDispatch.com online forums from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday during a live session with a Dispatch moderator, who will ask him reader-submitted questions.
"Q & A with ..." is an online feature of the Brainerd Dispatch. Readers who submit questions will remain anonymous. Readers may access the forum to view the session online without registering. Excerpts from the forum with Walseth will be published in the Dispatch on Wednesday.
To submit a question for Walseth, e-mail Dispatch City Editor Kathi Nagorski from now until 7 p.m. Tuesday at firstname.lastname@example.org.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
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