Blooming Prairie voters head to the polls Tuesday

Published 6:39 am Monday, November 2, 2009

With the election just days away, Blooming Prairie school officials are still trying to make sure voters are informed about two operating levies on the ballot.

The polls will be open Tuesday, Nov. 3, for residents in the Blooming School District to vote between noon and 8 p.m. in the Elementary School gym.

Part of the need for the operating levies stems from the state deferring 27 percent of the district’s payments to next year.

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“When you don’t get that, you have to make sure you have enough to cover your bills,” Superintendent Barry Olson said. “So you borrow on the short term money, and that costs you money. Plus, you aren’t getting the money that you could put into investments during that year that you could be making money on. So it’s a double whammy.”

The district borrowed money each year before the state deferred the payments, but Olson said the district borrowed almost four times what they typically borrow.

The ballot will consist of two questions. If approved, the first would revoke the existing levy, which is set to expire in two years. The existing $350 per student levy would then be replaced with a $700 per student levy that would last 10 years.

The additional money would go into the district’s general budget. The money would help build the district’s fund balance back up and prevent cuts to programs and staff.

If that levy change doesn’t pass, the district would need to look over all the programs and extra curricular activities to decide where cuts can be made, Olson said.

“It means cutting programs. It’s cutting electives. It’s increasing class sizes,” Olson said.

If passed, the taxes would be about $72 annually on a $100,000 home and $144 annually on a $200,000 home. The levy will not tax agricultural land, only the homestead and one acre.

The ballot will include a second question asking voters to approve a second levy for an additional $200 per student. That levy can only be approved if the change to the existing levy is approved. The money from this levy would go toward things like improving technology in the schools and making improvements to the preschool program, everyday kindergarten and college in the schools.

The second levy would be a separate tax, adding additional taxes that would roughly double the first levy. That levy would only last three years.

If the $700 per student levy passed, about 55 percent of the money would come from local tax payers, with 45 percent coming from the state. All of the money for the $200 per student levy would come from the taxpayers.

More than 90 percent of the schools in the state have operating levies. A total of 58 schools across the state will vote on levies.

Even though schools across the state have felt the effects of the deferrals and the recession, Olson said referendums aren’t more important than in other years.

“They’re all important,” Olson said. “If the state does not fund schools, the only other avenue the districts have to raise funds is to go to the voters. So we don’t have any other choice. The naysayers can say that we have all these other options. We don’t have any other options.”

Voters will also elect four school board members. The terms of Rae Jean Hansen, Rodney Krell, Loretta Ingvalson and Jeff McCabe are due to expire this year; Krell is the only one running again.

Jamie Bodenstab, Ron Janning and Linda Kaplan will also be running.

“Our school boards here in Blooming Prairie traditionally have been very supportive,” Olson said. “I would expect that to be the same direction we’re going — very supportive of our educational system. I don’t see that to change.”