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Q&A on WDC's levy Nov. 3

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(Editor's note: Here is a question-and-answer about the upcoming Nov. 3 Wadena-Deer Creek schools levy referendum, as provided by the school administration.)

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What is a referendum levy?

A school levy allows a local school district to access additional dollars from state education funds. The state grants such funds to a local district only if the voters agree to also invest some of their own tax dollars. The spending formula for the proposed $800 referendum provides for 44 percent of the dollars (or $345,003) to come from the state (not local money) and 56 percent (or $601,344) from local sources.

What does this mean for local taxes?

This is the last year of property taxes for the current referendum. After taxes payable in 2010, the current levy will cease. The table below indicates estimated tax changes.

For the proposed referendum, agricultural (except for 1 acre and residence) land and seasonal recreational property are exempt.

Many property taxpayers are eligible for a Minnesota Property Tax Refund. Below right are examples of the extra refund that would result at different income levels. (This is based on an average home value of $90,000 and a levy increase of $144.)

This chart shows what the net effect (after receiving an increased refund from the state) would be:

What are the ballot questions?

State law determines the language the school district must use on the official ballot. Unfortunately, much of the information on the ballot is difficult to understand. Here's a brief explanation of what the ballot language really means.

Question 1:

Funding the "basics": math, reading and science curriculum. The levy will provide the school district with $650 per student. Your individual taxes will not increase by $650. Instead, if Question 1 passes, the average homeowner ($90,000 value) would pay $103 more per year than they are currently paying.

Please note: Question 1 must pass in order for Question 2 to pass. You cannot vote for Question 2 only, as it will cancel the vote.

Question 2:

Additional money for technology to support the basics. Question 2 seeks an additional $150 per student. Your individual taxes will not increase by $150. If both Questions 1 and 2 pass, the average homeowner ($90,000 value) would pay $144 more per year than they are currently paying.

In Minnesota, 309 out of 340 school districts have referendums in place. The average is $822. If both questions are approved by voters, WDC's total would be $800, which is still below the average in the state.

Why do we need this levy?

The dollars for this levy will be used primarily to fund the "mandated basics" such as math, reading and science for K-12 students, as well as textbooks and technology. New mandated testing for students is also needed, which requires additional technology to be in compliance with testing standards. Furthermore, this money is needed to maintain current class sizes and fund balance.

What will happen if this referendum does not pass?

Without this referendum, classes such as Industrial Arts (shop) and Home Economics will be cut and the basic curriculum of WDC Public Schools will be in jeopardy. Further cuts will be made to teaching and support staff as well. (In the last three years, the WDC School Board has made $2.1 million in staff and program reductions.)

What if I want more information?

The public is encouraged to attend an upcoming meeting in Wadena at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 22 in the WDC High School Commons.

For more information on the referendum, visit the school's Web site at www.wdc2155.k12.mn.us or call the School District office at (218) 632-2155. Voting will take place at Memorial Auditorium in Wadena (one polling place only) on Nov. 3.

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