Insufficient state funding and new legislation forces Sauk Rapids-Rice District to go to voters

By Daniel Bittman, Guest Columnist

After much discussion and communication with school, district and community members, the School Board determined the need to increase operating revenue and seek voter approval in the November election.

School Board members acknowledged that funding provided by the state and federal government continues to be less than what is needed to cover expenses. More specifically, they discussed reductions ($3.75 million) that have been made in the Sauk Rapids-Rice School District since 2007 and the negative impact the reductions have had on students, staff and the community.

Consequently, Sauk Rapids-Rice (SRR) voters will be asked to vote on an operating levy that would provide revenue for student-related operating expenses. Operating expenses include, but are not limited to, maintaining the number of student classes and programs currently offered, providing student transportation free of charge, and maintaining and/or reducing class sizes where possible.

Nearly 98 percent of Minnesota school districts have an operating levy in place, which provides an average of $899 per student in addition to the basic student funding provided by the legislature. Sauk Rapids-Rice ranks 334th of 338 (338 is the school district with the lowest amount of revenue) districts in a statewide survey of the amount of Total General Education Referendum and Alternative Compensation Revenue per student.

Furthermore, because there is no operating levy in place, the district does not receive or have access to approximately $500,000 in Referendum and Equity Aid that would be available if the levy is passed. As a result of not having this levy, SRR has been forced to raise class sizes, make significant reductions, and increase fees for student athletic and activity events.

SRR parents, employees, and community members have asked School Board members to clearly articulate the potential tax impact, ensure monies go directly to students and keep the amount of money requested low. The district has responded favorably to the requests and has taken appropriate action. All stakeholders are encouraged to visit the district’s Web site at www.isd47.org for more specific information.

Your insight, participation, and vote will impact our children, school district, and community regardless of whether you support or oppose the levy. I encourage you to make a well-informed decision and to contact the district if you have questions.

Dr. Daniel Bittman is the superindent of Sauk Rapids-Rice School District 47.

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