Carlton School District seeks support on referendumIndependent School District 93 of Carlton will seek to stem an ever-rising tide of staff reductions and program cutbacks by putting an excess levy referendum program before voters on Tuesday, April 20.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Independent School District 93 of Carlton will seek to stem an ever-rising tide of staff reductions and program cutbacks by putting an excess levy referendum program before voters on Tuesday, April 20.
According to Superintendent Scott Hoch, the ballot will include a two-part question, one asking voters to support a 7-year extension of the current operating referendum and one requesting support for an additional operating referendum that would increase the amount of money available per student unit from $500 to $850.
“This is certainly needed,” said Hoch, “particularly in light of flat funding and declining numbers.”
Hoch went on to explain that although the state of Minnesota provides money for each child attending school in the district, as the population within the district drops, the state dollars drop as well. He explained this leaves the district with higher costs and a widening gap between the amount of money coming in and going out.
Hoch said over the last two years, the board has had to make many difficult cuts and reductions to help compensate for the dilemma. Budget cuts amounting to $313,750 were made for the 2009-2010 school year, and Hoch said the 2010-2011 school is already on track for a proposed $331,457 in cutbacks.
To that end, at the March 15 school board meeting, members placed eight current staff members on unrequested leave effective at the conclusion of the current school year. Hoch said though it is possible some of them may enter into new contracts with the district in the fall, at least some will likely represent permanent cuts. He added the board is currently looking at other areas that may be affected by cutbacks as well.
If approved by voters, the excess levy referendum(s) would direct additional taxpayer money into the operating expenses of the district, including supplies, materials, textbooks, technology support, personnel expenses, programs and other day-to-day expenses incurred by the district.
In explaining the potential tax impact to district residents, Hoch gave as an example a resident owning a home with a market value of $100,000, who is now paying $83.31 annually under the current excess levy arrangement. That same resident would commit to an additional $6.94 annually if the additional levy is also approved.
Farmland and recreational properties would be exempt from the referendum, and only the home, garage and first acre on a farm would be taxed at the stated rate.
Hoch explained that if voters approve the extension of the current referendum, due to expire in 2011, the move will continue to infuse the district with $400,000 in annual operating funds. If the additional levy passes as well, he said, that amount will go up by another $250,000 a year to help the district retain the current level of programming and educational opportunities.
He went on to explain that while the renewal of the existing levy can be endorsed on its own, the second automatically fails if the first is not approved.
If the levy referendum does not pass, Hoch said future cuts and reductions will need to be instituted, many of which he admitted may compromise the quality of the district’s educational programs. He did say that if this spring’s referendum vote fails, the district will likely try for a similar excess levy once again next fall.
A mailing explaining the upcoming vote was sent out to all residents of the district last week, and two community meetings have been held thus far, one in Carlton and one in Blackhoof, though only a handful of district residents attended.
The excess levy proposal comes on the heels of a myriad of other concerns for the district. A recent pairing and sharing agreement with the Wrenshall School District that would have combined spring sports programs as well as various academic programs failed to pass in the closing moments.
In January, the district failed to meet the mandated deadline for finalizing its teacher contracts and was fined a $16,000 penalty. A subsequent arbitration hearing is set for May 12 and Hoch said he hopes the district will be back at the bargaining table shortly thereafter.
Hoch, himself, is set to retire on April 15, and he said 16 applicants applied for the superintendent position earlier this year. Two sets of interviews were held and an offer has been extended to a candidate, but Hoch said talks are still under way.
In the meantime, Hoch said he plans to stay on following his retirement date in a volunteer capacity to help cover the job responsibilities, along with the help of Carlton High School Principal Dave Battaglia.
Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. the day of the upcoming referendum vote, which will take place at the Carlton County Transportation Building on Old Highway 61. A sample ballot can be found on page B7 in this week’s issue of the Pine Journal.
For questions or additional information, contact Hoch at 218-384-4225.