Election day, Nov. 6, is fast approaching. Local residents have received information from the school district via regular mail or insert materials in the New Ulm Journal. A public information meeting was held on Oct. 29.
Even though this information has been shared in multiple ways, some assumptions by residents need clarification. A recent Letter to the Editor referenced that less than 15 percent of school funding goes to students.
The author of the letter probably is referring to the fact that 80 percent of general fund expenditures are dedicated to personnel salaries and benefits. That statement is correct. However, clarification of the statement should also be considered. Education is a very labor intensive operation.
All school personnel provide support to programs and services that are directly related to the students. Students receive benefit from all school employees, in one way or another depending on the employee duties.
Referendum funds would be used to hire more teaching staff to reduce class sizes and offer more courses to secondary students.
The additional 20 percent of general fund revenue indirectly impacts students as well. This 20 percent of funding is dedicated to utility costs, building and property maintenance, purchase of textbooks and equipment used in classrooms.
The length of a referendum question is governed by state statute. Local school boards can decide on the number of years for a referendum to be active between one and ten years. Conducting levy referendums has a cost impact. The decision to extend the levy question to ten years was made by the local school board to limit future expenses in conducting referendums.
It should be noted that passage of a levy referendum question does not mandate the school board to levy the maximum levy amount. Should the Minnesota legislature, in future years, be able to significantly increase school district per pupil funding, the local school board can choose to levy less than the maximum approved levy amount.
Local school boards also have the authority to include an inflationary factor in the levy question. The legislature provided school districts this option several years ago as a means to help maintain the purchasing power of levy referendum dollars. The state of Minnesota calculates what the inflationary factor is from year to year using a state developed formula.