School funding options unveiledRed Wing school funding could remain at its current level over the next five years, or per-pupil financing could double during that period.
By: Mike Longaecker, The Republican Eagle
Red Wing school funding could remain at its current level over the next five years, or per-pupil financing could double during that period.
The referendum decision will ultimately be left to voters, but Red Wing School Board members must first choose exactly which amount to seek.
Supt. Stan Slessor said that decision could come as early as Monday, when the September referendum returns to the board’s agenda.
As it stands, per-pupil funding is set at $600, but options unveiled to a citizens group outlines several other referendum renewal options that School Board members could choose.
The board could propose renewing the referendum at the current level, or at $800, $1,000 or $1,200 per pupil. With each increase comes corresponding hikes in property taxes.
For example, a funding boost to the $800 level would mean a $47 climb in property taxes for a home valued at $150,000, according to figures compiled by district Finance Director Brad Johnson. At the $1,200 funding level, property tax increases on the same home value would climb to $141.
Slessor said the citizens group indicated support for increases at the $1,200 and $1,000 levels, but did not issue a recommendation to the board.
That citizens on the panel hesitated to forward a firm number to the board surprised Slessor, though he said the group did provide a direct message.
“Do we have a vision for what we want in the Red Wing schools?” he said, reciting the group’s intent aimed at solving class size issues and restoring dollars to the budget.
Slessor noted that Johnson’s model shows funding could be restored to the district at the $1,200 and $1,000 levels, rather than delaying more cuts.
The $800 option would mean more than $250,000 in cuts by 2011-12. Renewal at the current level would mean nearly $1.5 million in cuts between 2009 and 2013, according to Johnson’s report.
Over the past two school years, School Board members have cut $1.15 million from the budget. If a referendum fails to pass this year, school officials say the district will be faced with an immediate $2.1 million funding gap.
Paul Redding said that’s not an option. A member of the citizens group, Redding said he witnessed a conflict among some at the meetings.
Some, he said, leaned toward stopping the district’s figurative bleeding, while others sought to go further by restoring cuts to the system.
“That’s the soul searching that I believe has to go on now,” he said of the board’s decision.
School Board member Stephen O’Keefe said the two highest per-pupil funding levels seemed most appealing, since they keep the district above water for the duration of the five-year referendum.
The citizens group concluded its work Tuesday, but Slessor said it could be reconvened at the board’s request.
No matter what amount board members decide, Slessor said he hopes the public becomes engaged in the referendum process.
“What we owe the community ... is that full-blown information campaign so they can make an informed decision,” he said.