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Five area school districts seeking voter-approved referendums

Reported shortfalls in state funding have several area districts requesting financial help from its residents on Nov. 5.

ISD518 tax base
Independent School District 518's net tax base composition. The state is paying a portion of ag land payments through its Ag2Schools tax credit, which will increase to 70% through 2023.

REGIONAL — A number of school districts across the region are gearing up to request voters approve levy or capital referendums —requests that many of the districts agree are due, in part, to a gap in state funding when compared to necessary costs associated with properly educating students.

While the districts share the common theme of needing residents to help cover budget shortfalls caused by reported inadequate and/or inequitable state funding, residents of Worthington, Adrian, Ellsworth, Jackson County Central and Murray County Central school districts will see unique requests at the polls Nov. 5.

Worthington, Jackson County Central

Of the five upcoming school district referendums in The Globe's coverage area, Worthington ISD 518 and JCC ISD 2895 will ask residents to approve a building referendum.

In its sixth attempt in the past six years, the Worthington school district proposes two building options to help alleviate reported growing space concerns: up to $26.7 million worth of bond sales for a grades 4-5 intermediate school and a grades 3-5 intermediate school for an additional $7 million. The district has kicked in $5 million toward the building requests.

A third question will ask voters to approve refinancing $14 million worth of lease levy authority to general obligation bonds to make that debt eligible for the Ag2Schools tax credit.

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District 518 voters can cast their vote from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Lakeside Church, 1000 Linda Lane, Worthington.

Following several years of undergoing a facilities assessment, as well as establishing a citizens task force and hosting a public input process, the JCC school district will seek voter approval to sell up to $35,415,000 worth of bonds to make facility upgrades.

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If the plan is approved, the 1920 JCC middle school in Lakefield would be replaced with a new middle school addition on to Pleasantview Elementary in Lakefield to facilitate for grades 6-8

According to JCC Superintendent Barry Schmidt, co-locating the middle school at the Plesantview site has an added bonus.

“Our fourth- and fifth-graders (at Plesantview) will have a smooth transition into the middle level learning grades six through eight,” he said, adding that the new facility would include increased learning programs.

Approval would also result in high priority repairs and maintenance of other district facilities that were identified in a facilities assessment, which includes air quality and meeting Americans with Disabilities Act requirements at all buildings.

Schmidt added that approval of the upcoming referendum would also result in career pathways opportunities, particularly for trades and skills for students. Schmidt reported that the referendum will also enhance the curriculum and expand course offerings to improve strengthen learning and assist in strengthening partnerships with businesses and JCC communities.

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JCC residents may vote from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at precinct polling locations across the district. Visit jccschools.com for polling place information .

Both Worthington and JCC hope the increased contribution from the state via the Ag2School tax credit will have a positive affect at the polls. The tax credit, which is available to ag land property owners, is set to increase from this year’s rate of 50% to 70% by 2023.

According to referendum information shared on JCC’s website, the tax impact on agriculture property tax is less than what was paid in 2017.

Adrian, Ellsworth, MCC

Adrian, Ellsworth and MCC school districts will ask residents to renew or increase its respective operating referendums, which help school districts cover expenses of the day-to-day costs associated with education students. In the state of Minnesota, operating levies are effective for 10 years, unless the district requests an earlier revocation and increase.

Having experienced a “sharp” decline of students since 2009, the Adrian school district is asking residents help account for an annual loss of revenue to ensure a solid curriculum and access to technology is available to remaining students. According to the district’s website, since 2009, the district’s enrollment dropped from 502 to 397 students, accounting for an approximate annual loss of $780,000.

The request takes the form of two questions: 1) Renewing the district’s current per pupil operating levy of $379.26 and 2) Increasing the operating levy to $483 per pupil unit, raising an estimated $277,665 annual revenue for the district.

Adrian Superintendent Roger Graff said passage of both questions will allow the district to maintain its current programming and staff to avoid reductions.

“It will also give us additional funds to help maintain our aging facilities,” Graff said.

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Adrian school district residents may vote from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Adrian City Hall, 209 Maine Ave.

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Also faced with declining enrollment, which leads to less state aid, the Ellsworth Public School District will request residents replace its current $1,121 per pupil authorization with a new authorization of $1,779.50. If passed, the new per pupil authorization would generate approximately $97,000 in annual revenue for the district. The last operating referendum request was made in 2013.

Ellsworth residents may vote from 5 to 8 p.m. at precinct polling locations across the district.

The MCC school district in Slayton requests residents renew its $625.69 per pupil operating referendum. The district reported 1,518 students enrolled in grades pre-kindergarten through 12th grade as of Oct. 1.

MCC Superintendent Joe Meyer called renewal of the district’s per pupil operating referendum “critical” to the school’s general education revenue, which helps the district operate and offer its current programs.

“Without this referendum, budgets would have to be cut drastically,” Meyer said, adding that the state general education revenue formula has not kept pace with inflation. “This option ultimately hurts the students that we serve.”

MCC residents may vote from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Slayton Senior Center, 2451 Broadway Ave., Slayton.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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