It's referendum time again, this time in Marshall, where the school is asking voters to renew the $675 per pupil operating levy - which would not increase current tax levels. The renewal would begin July 2013 and last for five years. There is also a second question on the ballot for November, one that asks for an additional $150 per pupil operating levy to support ongoing investments in technology, as well as maintenance issues. That increase, if passed, would begin July 1, 2012, and would be good for six years. A school official told the Independent the tax impact the second part of the referendum would have on the average home in the Marshall district amounts to $57 per year. Question 2 is dependent on the passage of Question 1.
Don't blame the Marshall School District for seeking such a referendum - it's just one of more than 100 school districts in the state that are feeling the pinch and are asking the voters for help. It should come as no surprise that the number of districts looking for an increase or extension of funding is so big, as the Legislature continues to delay state aid to schools in these budget-crunching times.
Marshall's not the only district in the region seeking a referendum, either. New Ulm is asking voters to approve a 10-year referendum in the amount of $725, while Montevideo is looking to increase its current referendum of $505 to $700. Then contingent on the first question passing, Montevideo is asking for an additional $200, for a total of $900 per pupil amount. Dawson-Boyd voters will decide whether or not to increase its levy amount from $752 to $990. Sleepy Eye, which does not currently have a referendum in place, is asking voters to approve a $750 amount, and if passed, is looking for an additional $250. And Milroy is asking for an additional $362 per pupil amount on the ballot, which would increase the current amount of $1,242 to $1,604 for five years.
We strongly encourage residents of the Marshall School District to attend today's informational meeting at 6 p.m. at the Marshall Middle School theater on the proposed referendum. After all, you're the ones who will be voting on it. If you have concerns or simply want to educate yourself on where all this money would be going, this is your chance to speak your mind and learn. The more people who take part in these kinds of discussions, the better for everyone. Just ask the people in the Lynd School District, who met numerous times this summer to discuss the issue of having taxpayers there chip in for a new school. The idea of building a new school on the taxpayers' dime raised plenty of eyebrows in that district and grew into a contentious issue.
We realize asking for an operational levy referendum and seeking taxpayer money for a new school building is an apples-to-oranges comparison, but the point is this: Voters need to take any opportunity they're given to let their voices be heard.