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It's critical that referendum passes

In 2002, the citizens of District 518 delivered for our local students in an important way, by approving a $402 per pupil unit operating levy. This levy, which went into place in 2003, prevented District 518 from having to make deep cuts into stu...

In 2002, the citizens of District 518 delivered for our local students in an important way, by approving a $402 per pupil unit operating levy. This levy, which went into place in 2003, prevented District 518 from having to make deep cuts into student educational and co-curricular opportunities since then, despite the following two years of no new educational funding from the state.

Even given the new operating levy revenues, since 2002 District 518 has had to make significant budget reductions. These cuts, on top of the cuts made by the board in 2001-2003, mean that the District has made nearly $2.5 million in general fund budget reductions over the past five years.

While the 2005 Legislature approved a long-awaited increase in state educational funding for 2006-2007, it will unfortunately not alone make up for the damage already done. Without additional help from the local taxpayers, the board will be forced to make a number of budget cuts that will do irreparable harm to the opportunities provided students of District 518.

This is unacceptable, and we as citizens of the greater Worthington community have the responsibility to our neighbors and children, nieces and nephews, grandchildren and great grandchildren, to ensure that it does not happen.

Fortunately, on Nov. 8, 2005, District 518 voters have another opportunity to go to bat for students, and help preserve the programs and opportunities currently in place for the foreseeable future. The District 518 Board is asking voters to replace the current levy with a five-year levy of $900 per pupil operating unit.

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It is critical for the welfare of our school district and the entire Worthington area that this levy passes. Passage of the levy will ensure that class sizes remain reasonable and that current student programs remain in place. It will also result in a significant infusion of new state dollars into District 518. This is because 45 percent of the levy will be paid for by the state. In other words, an investment of $54.60 in local tax dollars will bring in $45.40 in new state dollars. These are tax dollars that have already come out of our pockets. Let's make sure some of them come back to our school district for the benefit of our kids.

A healthy school district is also essential for a healthy local economy. It is unreasonable to expect existing or new businesses or companies to invest substantial dollars in our communities if it is not clear that we citizens have already done so for our children.

The generosity and foresight of District 518 taxpayers in 2002 has resulted in students having the continued opportunity to participate in orchestra, speech, pep band, debate, cross country, dance team, tennis, golf, and gymnastics. Students have also had the chance to enroll in advanced and elective courses to prepare them for college or careers.

This fall's referendum definitely comes at a challenging time for our country. Energy costs are skyrocketing, the war in Iraq continues to rage, the weather-related crises sometimes seem never-ending, and the future of the economy is uncertain. But it is precisely because of these issues that our kids need us now more than ever. These problems too will pass in time, but a strong educational system in Worthington must persevere. It is our responsibility as citizens to dig deep, as our parents and ancestors did for us, often in times much tougher than these, and ensure that a strong school district is there for the future of our kids and our communities.

It is now our duty to rise to the challenge. There is too much at stake in this election to be a bystander or to let any single issue or grievance get in the way of looking at the best interests of kids in our district.

I urge voters of District 518 to consider carefully the referendum information recently mailed by the school district and to vote " " on Nov. 8.

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