The following are the five most frequently asked questions to school administrators about the Brainerd School District operating levy referendum and the district's answers to those questions:
Q: How did we get here? And why didn't I hear about this sooner?
A: Years of inadequate state funding have depleted our fund balance. Combinations of cuts and spending down the fund balance will result in a fund balance of nearly zero by the end of this year. Our budget situation has been widely publicized in the Dispatch and through various community meetings and public forums.
Q: Why didn't you ask for an increase sooner? Why such a large jump all at once?
Parents on the parent advisory council at Brainerd High School South Campus listened to a presentation by Todd Lyscio, Brainerd Community Education director, and board member Ruth Nelson on Tuesday. Brainerd Superintendent Jerry Walseth said that nationally, 25 percent of parents aren't registered to vote, which is why the district is hoping to educate its parents on what's at stake in this upcoming operating levy referendum. Brainerd Dispatch/ Nels Norquist
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A: For many years, our district, as well as many others throughout the state, has seen a budget issue looming and has been waiting for the state to take on its full obligation of funding education. In the meantime, our Board of Education has been watchful of the situation and had chosen for many years to make cuts and to spend down our fund balance in an effort to avoid having to go to taxpayers for a levy increase. Since the state has not taken on its full obligation and the fund balance is depleted the time has come that we cannot take that approach any longer and a community decision must be made.
Q: What is the difference between a bond and a levy?
A: Bonds are for building. Levies are for learning. The construction of Forestview Middle School has no bearing on our district's current financial status. Bond money cannot be transferred to the general fund for annual operating costs.
Q: What will happen if this referendum fails?
A: The budget would need to be cut by $5.5 million. Five main areas would be affected: 1) Reductions in transportation; 2) School closures; 3) Elimination of all middle school athletics/activities, 18 high school varsity sports and all clubs and organizations with paid advisers; 4) Eliminate district's costs associated with community use of school facilities; 5) Reduction of programs and increases in class sizes, including reduction of support staff and teachers (largest impact - would mean $3.66 million of $5.5 million reduction).
Q: What will happen if this referendum passes?
A: Students will continue to receive a top-notch education with enhanced learning opportunities, including greater work force preparation and all-day, everyday kindergarten. No schools would be closed; class size would be reasonably maintained; there would be a continued positive impact on the local economy; the financial shortfall will be eliminated and the district will begin to rebuild savings.
- Information provided by Brainerd School District.
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