Cloquet School Board votes for two-part operating levy questionThe existing Cloquet School District operating referendum will soon expire, and the district will be asking voters for a renewal and increase in a special election to be held Nov. 8 at the Cloquet Armory.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
The existing Cloquet School District operating referendum will soon expire, and the district will be asking voters for a renewal and increase in a special election to be held Nov. 8 at the Cloquet Armory.
The renewal and increase of the district’s current referendum was the main topic discussed at Tuesday night’s school board meeting. According to Superintendent Ken Scarbrough, the current referendum for the Cloquet School District is nearly $900 less per pupil than the state average.
In November, the School District ballot will ask voters two questions.
In Question 1, the board will ask for a renewal of the existing $97.61-per-pupil levy for a period of 10 years. Passage of Question 1 would mean no tax property tax increase, because voters would be renewing an existing property tax referendum. If voters choose not to renew the existing property tax referendum, they will see a property tax decrease for the school district portion in 2012 and the district would lose nearly $380,000 in revenue and have to make even deeper cuts in activities, curriculum and staff.
In Question 2 of the school district ballot, the board will ask voters for an increase of approximately $275 per pupil, a move that would pump nearly $800,000 dollars into the district’s budget. This money will be used to finance school operations such as bringing in up-to-date technology for students and keeping class sizes low.
In order for Question 2 to pass, voters must vote “yes” to both questions.
The Springsted, Inc. survey conducted earlier this year has shown the community’s support of both the school district and the referendum.
Scarbrough is optimistic that the survey will be an accurate predictor of the November vote.
“Even in this tough economic time … the survey showed there was some support to increase funding for education locally as long as we’re targeting what’s best for students,” Scarbrough said. “I am pleased that our public has shown a willingness to support it, provided we show them legitimate reasons and legitimate ways we’re going to be spending this money.”
According to Scarbrough, the average operating referendum for the state of Minnesota is $995 per pupil. At $97.61 per pupil, the Cloquet school district is operating on nearly $900 less than that average. Scarbrough said, “That’s just an indication that we have been managing our financial situation very well, but we’re getting to the point where we need to ask our public for additional funds.
“It’s not a very pleasant thing to do to go to our public and ask for additional funding like this from the standpoint that everybody is hurting; however, the good part about this is it does allow us to talk to the public and talk about what’s
With the 2011-2012 school year just around the corner, there will be some changes in staffing in the Cloquet schools. In one such change, the board granted Senior High School social studies teacher Chris Swanson’s request for a leave of absence to pursue, in his words, “alternative employment in an effort to meet my family’s financial obligations” during the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years.
In a letter to the board, Swanson expressed it has been a “great pleasure to work with the great staff, students and families of this district,” and he would appreciate the opportunity to teach in this district again. It is included in the teachers’ contracts to request a leave of absence, and in this case the board wanted to accommodate Swanson’s request. Swanson will be able to return to his position when or if he chooses.
“He’s an outstanding teacher,” Scarbrough said. “I am very sorry to be losing such a quality teacher, but I understand there was a job opportunity he wanted to explore.”
The district has already begun the interview process to fill Swanson’s position, and the position will be filled before the school year begins.
The school year is about to begin, and those who are new to the area or to Cloquet schools can pick up a newly-designed school brochure, or listen to WKLK for an informational and welcoming ad.
The next school board meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 22, at Garfield School.