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USC going all out to pass levy vote

By Staff | Oct 25, 2010

Jerry Jensen

The campaign slogan on yard signs reads: Levies are for Learning.

United South Central Public School officials have done their part to educate residents before they vote Nov. 2 on whether to replace an existing operating levy with a higher amount.

“The meetings went well, but not many residents attended them. My concern is there are still a lot of people who haven’t made up their minds and may have questions,” says Jerry Jensen, superintendent of USC School District.

Jensen was referring to a series of informational meetings he recently conducted in the six cities making up the district.

The superintendent also is hoping two mass mailings by the district will provide voters with needed information before going to the polls.

On Tuesday night, School Board chair Christie Wetzel told board members more than 5,000 brochures were recently mailed to every address in the district.

In addition, the school district office sent out more than 3,000 “Notice of Special Election” letters to property taxpayers.

The mailings cost nearly $3,000 and another $1,500 went to hire a Twin Cities financial adviser.

“Our goal has been to make as much information we can available to the public,” Jensen says.

The printed materials contain the referendum question as it will appear on the ballot. Also, reasons for the levy increase, district’s financial condition, how additional levy money will be used and what the expected impact will be to taxpayers were explained.

For example, under the present levy of $1,000 per pupil, taxes annually for property with market values of $50,000 and $75,000 are $128 and $192, respectively. Under the proposed $1,200 per pupil for 10 years, that would increase to $164 and $247.

“As taxpayers, we have so few opportunities to determine where our tax dollars are used and spent,” Wetzel says. “Operating levies give us a rare occasion to invest in something we hold dear, a quality public education.”

Sharon Parriott is chairperson of the “Vote YES” Committee that has been working the past month in favor of the referendum.

Parriott says the committee’s 11 members are concerned with the uncertainty of state funding for education.

She says the group has collected about $750 donations to buy 250 yard signs, newspaper ads and radio commercials to encourage approval of the referendum.

“Our fear is that there are some people who don’t understand what they are voting for,” she says. “This is for the kids. We want to make sure to keep the programs we have.”

Parriott says anyone wishing to put up a yard sign may contact her at (507) 553-5551.

In other business, the board voted to spend $24,000 to improve the district’s Adequate Yearly Progress status for high school and elementary students in MCAII?math and reading tests.

Last year, the district failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress under the federal government’s No Child Left Behind Act.

The district has developed a plan so students can receive extra instruction to attain expected proficiency levels.