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Viewpoint: Referendum is community investment opportunity

By Arlen Diercks, Red Wing School Board Chair

Two years ago, Red Wing School District voters approved a $22 million building bond referendum. That money can only be used for capital building improvements including secured entrances, handicap accessibility, roofs, HVAC, parking lots, etc. This money can not be used to operate our schools. I want to thank the public for their support so that we were able upgrade our buildings.

Our school district will need our voters to pass a new operating referendum this November to replace the existing operating levy and additional funding. If a new operating levy does not pass this November, our school district will need to make $3 million in cuts one year from now effective July 1, 2019.

Our existing local voter approved operating levy of $811.64 per student expires at the end of this year. The last time there was an increase in the local operating levy was 2008.

A local voter-approved operating levy is money used to fund our school district in addition to the federal and state education dollars for day to day expenses such as salaries, utilities, textbooks, etc. One of the main reasons why we need additional local tax dollars to fund our schools is because federal and state funding have not kept up with inflation.

Our school district attempted to have the voters approve a new operating referendum last November. The referendum failed.

After the failed referendum we listened to the public about why they voted no. We found that many voters did not know what the money would be used for. The voters did not know the consequences of a "no" vote. Many in our community felt disconnected from our schools because there was no communication to them about the great things happening in our classrooms.

We as a board are working hard to correct this. We started mailing quarterly newsletters to all residents in our district. There is a Red Wing Public School Facebook page highlighting school events, student, staff, school board and alumni. We are looking for other ways to improve communication to the public

We want our entire community to have Winger Pride. We want the entire community to feel connected to our schools. I and other School Board members are willing to speak to groups or just listen to their concerns

The board has continued to discuss the referendum. We are having a residents survey conducted. The results will be revealed in late May. The School Board will make a decision on the amount of money for November's referendum ballot question or questions in late May or early June.

Supporting Red Wing Public Schools with our taxes is an investment in our community. Great communities have great schools. Great schools need a community to support them

Red Wing Schools gave me a great education which is the foundation for everything I have done in my life. I and the rest of our board are committed to giving our children a great education which will be the foundation for everything they do the rest of their lives