Faribault School Board approves $600 levy

/ 18 June 2012 / jennifer

Allison Roorda, Faribault Daily News, June 18, 2012 –

All seven members of the Faribault Public School Board were at the meeting Monday night, and all seven were needed.

The big item of the night was the approval of a $600 operating levy for an eight-year term. Discussion to get to the point of approval was varied and, at times, heated. But most board members agreed it was necessary.

“Over the last 10 years, the amount of revenue the state has provided hasn’t even hit the rate of inflation,” said Superintendent Todd Sesker. “You’ve hit a fork in the road where you choose to make more cuts in the programs or raise the revenue.”

The school board made significant cuts in March, amounting to $1.3 million with about $900,000 of that coming from the general fund and a Severance/Retirement fund. Once the discussion of budget cuts was finished, the school board started looking at the possibility of a levy.

“We can talk about salaries, we can talk about cuts or we can talk about raising revenue,” said school board chair Jason Engbrecht.

Not everyone was in favor of the idea of a levy, however. Richard Olson expressed his opposition to the levy.

“We have to watch expenses and that includes raises,” he said. “Everybody’s taxes are going up.”

Two main proposals for the levy sat before the board. One called for a $600 levy, which would create enough funds to potentially hire an extra six full-time equivalent positions throughout the district. The second plan called for a $630 levy to add nine additional full time equivalent positions. The board hopes to add something to the programs already in place in the district, though it hasn’t made any final decisions yet.

“I believe that we have to make the best decisions possible at the time that the circumstances arise,” said board member Tom Casper. “My position today is we need to raise some money to continue that excellent and comprehensive program.”

Treasurer James Wolf was the first to move for the $600 levy, with general approval. Howard Bode thought $600 was the minimum he would like the board to ask for, given the programs and positions the board was initially looking at adding.

“I’m concerned that even at $600, we’ll have to come back to the public,” Howard Bode said “I think that’s happened with the last levy, we didn’t anticipate enough.”

The $600 levy passed with a vote of 6-1 — with Olson voting against — and all that was left was the term length. Initial suggestions were for five years. Engbrecht said the key word word for him was stability, and he would be in favor of an eight-year term.

Casper said he thought the district needed some time to make sure whatever programs or positions it implemented with funds from the levy are stable.

“I think the longer term takes steps toward that route,” he said.

Wolf said the passage of the levy would be more important.

“We’re burdening our taxpayers for eight additional years,” Olson said of the term length.

In the end, the vote for an eight-year term instead of five years passed by 4-3, and the final vote for a $600 levy at an eight-year term passed 5-2, with Olson and Wolf voting against.

Allison Roorda covers education in Rice County. She may be reached at 333-3132.

Follow her on Twitter @AllisonRoorda