Referendum could be Cloquet School District’s saving graceExtending or even raising the Cloquet School District’s referendum tax could help keep the district’s budget deficits at bay. During Monday night’s regular school board meeting, Superintendent Ken Scarbrough explained to board members what the implications would be if voters did not approve of extending the current referendum and the revenue that could be generated if the tax amount were raised.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Extending or even raising the Cloquet School District’s referendum tax could help keep the district’s budget deficits at bay.
During Monday night’s regular school board meeting, Superintendent Ken Scarbrough explained to board members what the implications would be if voters did not approve of extending the current referendum and the revenue that could be generated if the tax amount were raised.
The current referendum is for $97.61 per pupil unit. Homeowners who have a home worth $150,000 end up paying an extra $29.80 per year in property taxes to fund the district’s referendum. This generates around $381,000 per fiscal year for the school district.
Should the current referendum and spending amounts stay the same through the coming years, the district could face a deficit of about $431,000 in the next fiscal year. That deficit would continue to grow unless revenues are increased or spending is cut. In fiscal year 2013, that deficit would grow to around $1.4 million. In fiscal year 2014, the deficit could grow to more than $2 million, and in fiscal year 2015 it could grow to nearly $3 million.
At the previous school board meeting this month, school board members voted in favor of cutting $500,000 from the school budget. Administrators are meeting to discuss what they suggest cutting from the budget. But if the district could raise the tax levy, the budget would be easier to balance without cutting as much as they would with the current tax amount.
An increase of $100 per pupil unit could generate about an extra $265,000 for the district at the price of about $60 per year for a $150,000 homeowner. An increase of $200 would generate approximately an extra $531,000. Finally, an increase of $300 would provide around $796,000 beyond what the district currently gets from the tax levy.
But none of this money can be brought in without a vote from the community. The referendum is up for a vote this year. Scarbrough recommends school board members consider adding an extra question to the ballot for voters to answer, beyond simply voting to renew the current referendum or not. He said a second question asking if voters would like to raise the levy by a certain amount would be the best route to go instead of flat out asking for more money.
“In all of these levy raises we’d be lower than the state average,” Scarbrough said. “But the bottom line is, what can property taxpayers afford and what will they vote for?”
Board members are expected to consider the ballot questions at the next regular school board meeting. In the meantime, administrators are continuing to work on budget cuts to present to board members also at the next meeting.