Voters in the Pillager and Staples-Motley school districts, which voted down operating levy referenda earlier this month, now have to decide how to proceed.
Staples-Motley School District residents were asked to increase the district's general education revenue by $415 per pupil unit. This amount would have generated $826,000 per year for six years. If the referendum would have passed, 58.8 percent would have been paid by the state.
The Pillager School District asked residents to support a $126 per pupil unit increase for 10 years. This amount would have brought in $112,000 annually, with half being paid by the state.
Pillager Superintendent Phil Johnson said the money would have been used to maintain small class size and maintain present technology use. He said these areas are the school districts top two priorities and will be the last items to be cut.
Johnson said the Pillager School Board gave the administration the approval Monday to begin to look at the 2003-04 budget to see what areas will need to be cut.
"It's too preliminary to say how much needs to be cut," said Johnson. "We're running a lean budget right now."
Johnson said the amount that will need to be cut will depend on the Legislature.
One way the school district could save money would be to contract for services more often, instead of having school district employees conduct the service, said Johnson. This could save about $120,000.
The levy referenda money for the Staples-Motley School District would have been used for programs and to help offset the $600,000 in cuts the district made last school year.
Staples-Motley Superintendent Ken Scarbrough also said the cuts the district makes in next school year's budget will depend on legislative decisions. However, he said the cuts could be anywhere from $600,000 to $800,000.
"The students and the community will see fewer services," said Scarbrough. "We will have to deal with less money and programs, but we will have high quality education."
Each school district cannot hold another operating levy referendum, by state law, until next fall.
Scarbrough said if it decides to hold another referendum, he hopes residents will see the reality of the cuts for the coming school year that had to be made because of the failure of the first referendum.
Scarbrough said the school district will spend time looking at why people voted no. The Nov. 5 referendum failed 1,056 to 711.
The Staples-Motley district will be holding several community forums to look at goals, the school's focus and improvements.
Johnson said if the Pillager district holds another referendum, it will need to do more work to get the information out to its residents. He also said it would be helpful to hold a referendum when there are no gubernatorial or Senate races. He said many politicians spoke in favor of keeping taxes low and that was the mood of the public.
In Pillager, the referendum failed 1,088 to 689.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.