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Committee gets to work

By Staff | Sep 28, 2009

Although the Nov. 3 election is more than a month away, the “Vote YES! Committee” is preparing to do everything it can to educate voters on why an operating levy for Blue Earth Area Schools should be renewed.

Fifteen committee members already have met twice to begin laying the groundwork for a ‘grass roots’ campaign.

The group’s chairman, attorney David Frundt, says the referendum must be approved so children can continue receiving a quality education.

“I believe it’s important to support a great system that educated me. Educating our children is not only an investment, but they are our future,” says Frundt.

This is the final year of a five-year 2004 levy, which generates $650 per student or more than $900,000 a year.

Superintendent Dale Brandsoy says the state’s economic condition and the Legislature underfunding education are reasons why districts need levies to supplement their budgets.

“The district has superb educational programs. This is to maintain what we have now. It’s not a luxury levy,” says Brandsoy.

Committee members will use various means to get their message out to the public.Brandsoy is fine-tuning a flyer the district will mail out. It will discuss the need for a levy, how the money will be used and what the cost impact will be to taxpayers.

“The district can’t encourage people to vote one way or another. We’re just providing the factual information,” he says.

So far, $2,000 has been raised to fund the pro-levy campaign.

Jesse Haugh, a member of the group’s finance committee, says the goal is to collect slightly more than the $6,000 spent in 2004.

BEA district residents can expect to start hearing radio commercials and seeing ads in local newspapers by early October.

Also, “YES” members will hand out some yard signs, canvass door-to-door, mail out their own informational pamphlet and conduct a get-out-the-vote effort by telephone.

The district isn’t alone in holding a levy election.

A survey by the Minnesota School Boards Association shows 62 districts will have a referendum on the ballot in November. Of that number, 44 are seeking an increase to their current levy.

“It can’t be stated enough that there’s not going to be an increase in the levy amount, just a continuation of the existing one,” Brandsoy says.

If the levy is renewed the state would pay about half of the estimated $908,000 in new revenues beginning in the 2010-11 school year.

Support of the local referendum, Frundt says, helps the local economy because the school district plays a vital role with the many jobs it provides.

“It’s not just teaching positions. There are para-professionals, substitutes and other support staff who are employed and support their families,” he says.

Last year, the BEA school board made more than $390,000 in budget cuts and is using more than $430,000 in reserves to avoid further reductions this year.

School board chairman Frankie Bly says if the levy vote fails, board members will have little choice on what to do.

“You subtract $900,000 from the budget and you can surmise what will happen. Some people and programs will have to go,” says Bly. “There isn’t anything that’s safe. Everything gets put on the table.”

Five local districts currently have higher levies than BEA.

Granada-Huntley-East Chain is the highest with $1,658 per pupil, followed by United South Central and Jackson County Central, $1,000; Maple River, $889; and Martin County West, $700.

St. James is at $569; St. Peter, $616; and Fairmont $500.