Superintendent Jim Lee's challenge this fall is to get St. Cloud voters to say yes -- and yes and yes and yes and yes.
Lee hopes residents approve five ballot questions that would bring his school district $5.7 million more a year, partly through increased property taxes. Voters in the Centennial district, in Anoka County, will have four levy requests before them. Bemidji's ballot has three.
About 80 Minnesota districts have held, or are planning, school-funding elections this year, according to a running tally kept by the Department of Education. But voters will decide on 106 requests seeking more than $100 million in new annual funding for public schools.
Fourteen districts have two or more levy requests up for votes on Nov. 4. It reflects a growing trend of districts splitting their pleas instead of letting everything ride on one ballot question.
"It's never in the past happened to the extent it is happening this year," said Bob Porter, a longtime levy watcher for the department. "I'm certainly puzzled by it."
Experts give a few explanations for the multiple-choice strategy: budget-pinched districts can't afford to come away with nothing so they divide their wish lists into manageable chunks; it better suits the public's increasing demand for financial accountability and transparency; and it forces communities to decide what school offerings they value and are willing to pay for.
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