Southland School District aims to renew former levy

Published 10:15 am Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Southland School District is asking voters to approve an operating levy on Nov. 3 that was dropped four to five years ago.

Southland is asking to get rid of a smaller operating levy it currently has to replace it with an operating levy that would raise funding from $387.44 per pupil to $1,550 per pupil for the next 10 years. This would put a home valued at $125,000 to $386 in taxes per year, a net gain of $328 compared to the last four to five years, according to an tax impact chart found on Southland’s website.

Several reasons have led to the school needing the levy, including less funding from the state due to a decrease in student population over the past eight years, according to Sampson, and other reason.

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Superintendent Jeff Sampson explained a similar operating levy — one for $847 per pupil — was dropped about four to five years ago to give taxpayers a break when there were two operating levies, and the district had a healthy fund balance at the time.

However, school officials said then that they would have to ask for the levy back eventually. Southland officials tried to pass an operating levy last year, but it was voted down.

“It’s hard to go back up the mountain,” Sampson said.

But after the operating levy was dropped a few years ago, taxpayers didn’t see a significant decrease in overall taxes, which include county, cities and school districts. But Sampson said that was due to construction costs on the Mower County Jail and Justice Center, which raised taxes at the same time in a different area. Sampson said this is one reason people forget about the dropped levy.

“We let the surplus drain down so we’re asking for it again,” Sampson said.

One of the reasons the operating levy was voted down last year, according to Sampson, was voters were confused by the different numbers they saw. When asking for $1,550 per pupil, many voters thought they had to pay that in taxes, but Sampson said that is not the case. Voters can find a tax impact chart on Southland’s website at For people with agricultural property, taxes are based on the value of the house, garage and one acre of land. The money goes toward day-to-day operations such as electricity or transportation, similar to LeRoy’s operating levy.

Last year, the school cut about $470,000 in its budget, and if the referendum doesn’t pass this year officials will cut between $500,000 to $600,000.

“If it’s no, I need to preserve every last dime that we have,” Sampson said. “So we’ll cut everything else out of our budget.”

He said when talking about operating levies and taxes, things can get confusing very fast, but he hopes to be transparent about everything the school is trying to do. He encouraged anyone with questions to give him a call or come in and talk with him about it directly.

“If they want to come in and talk with me individually I will share with them anything that they want to see,” he said.

More information can be found at the school’s website at, or by contacting Sampson directly at 507-324-5741, option No. 3.

The vote will take place Nov. 3 at the Southland High School in Adams.