By Stephen Jones, Guest Columnist
Much has been said and written the past few months concerning the Little Falls Community School District’s efforts to share information about its operating referendum renewal. As superintendent, I have tried many different avenues to connect with citizens in our various school district communities.
We have hosted four public meetings; I have met with numerous civic clubs, church groups and attended organization committee meetings; I have appeared at city council and county commissioner meetings; and I’ve been a guest on KLTF radio programs. There is also a 17-minute video of the operating referendum renewal on the district’s website.
The goal through all of these meetings and presentations, of course, is to try to provide transparent, accurate information to our stakeholders so they can proceed to the election booth on Nov. 5 as knowledgeable voters.
As with any election, it’s important that the information that is provided be direct and honest. I have worked diligently to achieve that goal; it is why we have scheduled so many opportunities to connect with district residents and it’s why the video of the presentation is available right on our website. Here are the highlights of the information that may help voters make their choice on Nov. 5.
• Because of changes in the property tax structure by the Minnesota Legislature during its 2013 session, passage of the operating referendum renewal will not result in a tax increase. For example, a property valued at $100,000 will see a $53 drop (about 25 percent) in the voter approved levy category beginning with the 2014 property tax statement;
• Renewing the referendum (which would impact taxes beginning in 2015) means that district residents can continue to support the school district at the same rate that it has since 2004 and still see a drop in personal property taxes. Even with renewing the operating referendum, a property valued at $150,000 will see a $79 drop in the voter approved levy category on the 2014 property tax statement;
• The state will be paying a higher percentage of the district’s operating referendum beginning in 2014; this was through action taken by the Minnesota Legislature. Beginning next year, the state will pay nearly 50 percent of the referendum cost instead of the current 26 percent that it pays — this is the main reason why local property taxes will see a decrease; and
• The district is not asking to add to the current referendum dollar amount. The district is asking only to renew the expiring referendum to produce the same income it has since 2004.
I ask that you take a few minutes to consider the information provided above or to watch the operating referendum renewal video on our Web page. You are also invited to contact any of the members of the Little Falls Community School Board or to connect with me directly. My office phone number is (320) 632-2001; my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please feel free to personally stop by my office in the high school as well. I welcome the opportunity to visit with district residents concerning all aspects of Little Falls Community Schools.
Stephen Jones is the superintendent of Little Falls Community Schools.