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More details emerge regarding Cloquet schools referendum

Cloquet School Board members spent a majority of their Aug. 9 meeting discussing the renewal and increase of the district's current operating referendum, which is slated to expire after the 2011-2012 school year. During that meeting, the board ap...

Cloquet School Board members spent a majority of their Aug. 9 meeting discussing the renewal and increase of the district's current operating referendum, which is slated to expire after the 2011-2012 school year. During that meeting, the board approved a two-question ballot to be voted on at a special election Nov. 8.

The first question will ask voters to renew the existing $97.61-per-pupil levy, which would mean no property tax increase because it would be a renewal of an existing referendum.

"Question 1 extends the money we are already getting," said board member Duane Buytaert. "The extra money ... would keep us where we're at."

If voters choose not to renew the referendum, they will actually see a property tax decrease of about $24 per year ($2 per month) on a home valued at $120,000, and the district will lose nearly $380,000 in revenue, according to Superintendent Ken Scarbrough. In this case, the district would have to continue making even deeper cuts into school activities, curriculum and staff members to try to soften the blow of the district's deficit.

"There aren't a lot of programs left to cut," Buytaert said.

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The second question is contingent upon the first, meaning that in order for Question 2 to pass, voters must vote "yes" to the first. Question 2 will ask voters for an increase of approximately $275 per pupil, putting nearly $800,000 into the district's budget.

This money would be used for student interests such as bringing in up-to-date technology to the schools, a project that has been continually postponed, Buytaert said.

"[At the elementary schools] the computers are older than some of the students who use them," he said.

While enrollment continues to rise, this money would also help hire new teachers and keep class sizes low.

If Question 2 does not pass, the district will need to continue to make cuts in various areas, since their costs are rising and state funding has been stagnant. According to Buytaert, in this case, the district would operate as it does currently, saving money where it can.

The current operating levy equates to $23.84 per year in taxes for a home valued at $120,000. An increase would raise taxes by an additional $67 per year for a home of the same value, bringing the total to a little over $90 per year - the equivalent of 12 extra movie tickets each year, or one ticket per month.

While the state average referendum is around $900 per pupil, even with the proposed increase of $275, the Cloquet School District would be operating on over $500 less than the state average. The Cloquet district is also paying less per pupil than many area districts including Barnum ($200.19), Duluth ($404.92), Wrenshall ($629) and Carlton ($1,100), Scarbrough explained.

According to Buytaert, passing either or both questions will not solve the district's budget problems, but passing at least Question 1 would help to keep things the way they are.

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During the Aug. 22 meeting the board discussed:

  • The employment of Steve Polkowski as the new high school social studies teacher, following Chris Swanson's leave of absence during the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years.
  • The All Staff Back to School Gathering will be held at 8 p.m. Monday, Aug. 29, in the Cloquet High School auditorium.
  • The next regular board meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 12, at Garfield School.

Cloquet schools hold Open Houses
Churchill Elementary

Back to school conferences:

11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 1

Kindergarten conferences:

Sept. 6-7

Washington Elementary

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Open House: 3-7 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 1

Cloquet Middle School

Open House: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1

Cloquet High School

Open House: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday Sept. 1

New Student Orientation:

12:30-2 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 30

RSVP to Steve

at 879-3393, ext. 1305

Related Topics: CLOQUETEDUCATION
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