At its July 19 meeting, the Greenbush-Middle River School Board expressed how it wanted to figure out what to put on a November 2021 ballot at that night’s meeting. It did just that.
The board directed administration to draft a resolution with the time and amount for two levy questions. The board decided to pursue the following levy ballot questions.
1.) Renewing its $506.05 per pupil levy for seven years
2.) Passing a $1,206.05 per pupil operating levy that would last seven years ($700 per pupil above the current levy)
The board will officially vote on putting these questions on a ballot at an August 2 special meeting at 7:30 pm.
This comes after district residents voted down a levy on last year’s ballot. This levy, if approved, would have revoked its current $506.05 per pupil operating levy and replaced it with a $1,306.05 per pupil operating levy that would have lasted ten years starting with taxes payable 2021. This levy would have increased with the rate of inflation and generated nearly $221,000 in additional revenue annually. For a fourth straight election dating back to 2015, GMR residents denied the district of increased tax-generated funding. The operating levy failed with 864 (55.67%) “no” votes to 688 (44.53%) “yes” votes.
Due to the levy failing, GMR Superintendent Larry Guggisberg explained, the district implemented a budget reduction process and approved cuts, ones amounting to $437,000 for the upcoming school year. These cuts include teachers, extracurricular activity staff, and non-licensed staff.
These two levy questions also come as the GMR enrollment continues to decline. Back in the 2007-08 school year, GMR had 480 students. Guggisberg said the district is expecting 222 students this upcoming school year, about a 54 percent reduction compared to 2007-08. Due to these factors, Guggisberg made the following recommendation.
“The suggestion from the school administration or myself is that you go back to the voters,” Guggisberg said, “and try to seek another election for an operating referendum.”
Before the board’s decision on what ballot question(s) to pursue, Guggisberg said the district, at a minimum, needs to renew the existing operating levy. This operating levy, $506.05 per pupil generates just over $146,000 in additional revenue annually.
“Renewals throughout the state of Minnesota and school districts, typically, they are approved because it’s really no tax impact from the years before,” Guggisberg said. “But once you add on to that, now, that becomes a question or that becomes an amount that you have to decide.”
If this $506.05 per pupil levy doesn’t pass on a November 2021 ballot, this revenue will not be available to the district for the upcoming school year, meaning a loss in revenue and likely additional budget reductions, according to the board agenda.
The board did agree that it should have a two-question ballot. During the board’s discussion on what amount to put on a second question— the increased levy question— board chairperson Shane Kilen expressed his thoughts on a second question.
“How much we need and how much they’re going to approve are probably two different things,” Kilen said about the second question.
“I’ll say this with tongue in cheek, ‘Don’t ask the school administrator or librarian or minister or priest how much money you need,’” Guggisberg responded. “There really is always a need, always a request for finances. It’s just a matter of what you got and how you work with it with what you have.”
Guggisberg added how the main question is what the public will absorb and support.
Earlier on in the discussion, board member Allison Harder expressed how the board should make a decision on this sooner rather than later.
“I’ve heard from many people in the last month that they are waiting for us to make the decision so we can move forward and people can help market it,” Harder said. “So I think the sooner we can make the decision the better.”
To see the complete story, read the July 21 issue of The Tribune in print or online.