Sections

Weather Forecast

Close

Fatal crash reported Wednesday near Spring Creek Road and Dale Court

The $1,000-1,667 question: District considering 7 referendum options

What are you proposing? Why is it important? What does it cost? And what are the consequences?

These are the questions the Red Wing School Board will have to consider related to a referendum vote in November.

These questions were posed by Don Lifto, a consultant who works for Springsted, a St. Paul-based public sector adviser that helped the Red Wing School District contact 350 registered voters between May 3-12.

The telephone survey covered multiple demographics that spanned ages, locations in the district, how active voters are, if a voter was a parent or non-parent (meaning they do or don't a child enrolled in the district), and whether they were called on a cell-phone or landline.

Survey results

Some 74 percent said they would renew the existing levy that was passed in 2012; 17 percent opposed to the idea, with 8 percent undecided.

After this initial question, the interview subjects were asked about nine potential consequences if the levy is not renewed. Some 66 percent said that a reduction of teachers and support staff and a cut of elective courses would be the most likely potential consequences.

After these nine questions, subjects were asked if they had changed their mind, and little more than a 3 percent had.

When subjects were asked whether they would support an increase in local property taxes to raise additional funding for the school, 58 percent were in favor, with 35 percent opposed.

Based on those statistics, interview subjects were given nine pieces of information about the proposed levy increase — 75.7 percent subjects said they would be more likely to support more hands-on STEM learning and 73.1 percent said they would be more likely to support maintaining teacher numbers and class sizes. That also increased by 3 percent after people received more information.

The survey showed that people ages 25-34 were 70.7 percent supportive and ages 35-44 were 67.7 percent. The lowest age demographic was people ages 18-24, with 47.6 percent support.

Interview subjects were also asked more specifically about a possible annual tax increases, if the levy were to pass: $85 (with 61.7 percent supporting, $120 (48.6 percent), $155 (41.4 percent) and $190 (33.4 percent).

When asked if they would never support a tax increase, 45 percent disagreed and 36 percent strongly disagreed. Only 7 percent and 9 percent responded with strongly agree or agree, respectfully.

Grading the district

Interview subjects also had the chance to "grade" the school district in a number of ways. The scale used was A, B, C, D, and F. Nearly 60 percent gave district an A or B grade for the quality of work.

When given the chance to grade the district's management of finances, 37 percent gave a C, with 26 percent giving the district a B. Only 4 percent gave the district an A grade.

By the end of the findings, the survey said the district has 77 percent informed support and the resulting recommendation is an annual tax impact no higher than $100 to $110 for the owner of an average-priced home.

"This is a planning parameter," Lifto said. "A planning recommendation. It's certainly true, based on our data, the further north you'd move from that $100 to $110, the thinner it is."

Referendum options

After the survey presentation, the Red Wing Public School District Business Manager Jackie Paradis presented the board with options for a possible referendum question:

Option 1:

• Voter approved: $1,000 per pupil

• Amount of reductions needed to meet goal reserve in five years: $1.3 million

Option 2:

• Voter approved: $1,107.85 per pupil

• Amount of reductions needed to meet goal reserve in five years: $1.02 million

Option 3:

• Voter approved: $1,200 per pupil

• Amount of reductions needed to meet goal reserve in five years: $775,000

Option 4:

• Voter approved: $1,300 per pupil

• Amount of reductions needed to meet goal reserve in five years: $525,000 

Option 5:

• Voter approved: $1,400 per pupil

• Amount of reductions needed to meet goal reserve in five years: $275,000

Option 6:

• Voter approved: $1,500 per pupil

• Amount of reductions needed to meet goal reserve in five years: None

Max Option:

• Voter approved: $1,667 per pupil

• Amount of reductions needed to meet goal reserve in five years: None

If the referendum fails, the only approved money would be $300 per pupil. This would mean $3.95 million in reductions to meet the goal reserve in five years.

The board was able to identify the tax impact on the average household for a number of the options presented:

• $85 per year = Option 1

• $105 per year = Option 2

• $120 per year = Option 3

• $173 per year = Option 6

• $201 per year = Max option

Board reactions

"We would be reeling for two or three years, at least," School Board Treasurer Mike Christensen said if the referendum were to fail.

Christensen said after hearing Lifto's recommendation and receiving the update referendum options, their position becomes increasingly difficult.

"The things that people want are going to involve, not cuts, but hires," Christensen said. "So how are going to manage our students better, if we're cutting administrators? How are we going to do STEM programming, if we don't have someone organizing that?"

School Board member Steve Anderson bluntly said during the meeting, that he would not support an option in the range of $1,000 per pupil.

"I just think that's put your head in the sand and not really giving our kids what they need," Anderson said. "I would be very much against that and would not support that whatsoever. And frankly, if the board passed Question 1 as $1,000, I think I'd just resign on the spot. Because I think that's that ridiculous. And you can hold me to that."

The board will continue discussing the options at the June 4 meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the Red Wing City Hall. Board members have said they hope to come reach a decision by the end of June, but have until the end of August to get the question on the November ballot.

School Board Chair Arlen Diercks said he was glad the survey was able to hit multiple demographics, rather than just one or two areas of registered voters.

"It seems to be a very good survey in a lot of ways. I think it's critical that we look at that number of what people are willing to pay."

Diercks said having people be supportive of a tax increase of $100-$110 is encouraging, but still leaves the board in a difficult decision.

"Unfortunately, our financial needs are so big, I don't know where we can go."

Matthew Lambert

Matthew Lambert joined the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2018 covering school board, public safety, and writing features. Lambert previously wrote for the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal. He is a graduate of Winona State University with a Bachelor's degree in Mass Communication: Journalism. 

(651) 301-7873
Advertisement
randomness