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A deeper dive into the referendum on Nov. 8

Classes are officially in full swing at Marshall Public Schools. It’s been great to have students back in the classroom and enjoying Fall sports and activities. We’re looking forward to celebrating homecoming in just a few short weeks and reconnecting with so many members of our community.

In the weeks ahead, you may meet representatives from our schools at homecoming and other school activities spreading the word about another big event happening this fall: the referendum to reinstate an operating levy to support Marshall Public Schools. I’ve previously written about the proposed levy, but I want to take this opportunity to discuss specifically the impact this decision will have on students and taxpayers in our community.

As part of the Nov. 8 general election, voters will decide whether to approve an operating levy of $675 per-pupil to protect current levels of staffing, student services and programming. An operating levy is a type of property tax that provides local funding for a school district’s general operating expenses, such as classroom materials, student programs, staffing, transportation, and utilities.

Since the district’s prior operating levy of $675 per-pupil expired in 2018, the district has continued to balance its budget thanks to careful management of costs and the use of one-time COVID relief funds. However, most education funding comes from the state, and Minnesota has not kept up with the rising cost of education for more than two decades. At the same time, federal COVID funding will soon expire.

If voters approve the referendum, the $675 per-pupil levy will generate approximately $1.8 million annually to help support classroom expenses, student programs, teachers and support staff and transportation at our schools. This would stabilize the district’s operating budget and help maintain current levels of services and staff.

For example, these funds would help maintain small class sizes, support instructional and intervention programs that help us meet individual student needs, and the career and technical classes that we believe help prepare our learners for success after high school. These funds would also support our extra-curricular activities that we know help connect our kids to the schools.

If voters reject the referendum, the district will face a deficit of nearly $2 million ahead of the 2022-2023 school year. To balance the budget, the school board would need to make cuts to spending that would likely impact class sizes, staff levels and funding for student programs.

Ultimately, this decision to invest in our schools is up to voters. Since funding for the levy would come from taxes on property within the district, it’s important that our community understand the tax impact if the levy is approved.

The levy would impact all owners of residential or commercial property within the boundaries of Marshall Public School District. Owners of a home valued at $200,000 — approximately the median value of a home in the district — would see a tax increase of approximately $21 per month.

By comparison, the prior operating levy that expired in 2018 cost owners of a $200,000 property about $23 per month. All non-homesteaded agricultural land and seasonal properties would be exempt from the levy.

We are committed to help residents learn more about the referendum so they can make an informed vote in November. For more information about the levy, the tax impact and how you can make your voice heard on election day, check out TomorrowsTigers.org. There, you can find helpful tools to locate your polling location, request an absentee ballot and even calculate the tax impact on your property.

I look forward to answering your questions and sharing more information about this exciting opportunity for our schools as we approach Nov. 8. And as always, Go Tigers!

— Jeremy Williams is Superintendent of Marshall Public Schools

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