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Board mulls another levy try

The Wadena-Deer Creek school board discussed the possibility of a levy referendum for fall 2009 at its May meeting Monday night but did not take action on one.

"I think it is very important that we try to go for a referendum," school board chairwoman Anne Pate said, citing the district's commitment to quality education and the Minnesota Legislature's reluctance to adequately fund schools. "If we wait a year we have lost that opportunity for funding."

"I definitely feel that we need to go for a referendum. The state has not funded education to the degree that they should in my opinion," said business manager Jerry Anderson, after being asked by board member John Moenkedick for his opinion. "Unless there is a major change in state politics for education we are not going to get much money."

Superintendent Virginia Dahlstrom pointed out that the wording of the levy is important. It can replace the current levy or be written to follow the current one when it expires.

"My concern is that [if] we don't pass one in two years, we will be one of 30 schools in Minnesota without one," board member Steve Techam said. "If we lose $100,000 more, what is going to happen? I think we need to work for it."

The current levy of roughly $100 per student will expire in 2011. The average levy referendum in Minnesota schools is currently $844 per student. District voters turned down a $700 per student levy referendum in November 2007 by a 2-to-1 margin.

Dahlstrom said that if the board decides to go for a levy they should begin the committee process in June. The amount of the levy referendum would not have to be decided until July or August, according to Dahlstrom.

"If we do go for one we want people to understand what it is for, we don't want to spring a number on them late," board member Wayne Perkins said.

Anderson pointed out that levy referendums can be set for any number of years a district desires but 10 years is the maximum.

The district enrollment decline for next year will be around 30 students -- which would amount to a decline of $150,000-$180.000 in state funding. The district's enrollment May 1 was 1,030. The district's enrollment was 1,045 last September when the 2008-09 school year began.

If given approval by the board, Dahlstrom said she would establish goals for the district and specify where the additional money would best be spent.

"I think that might be helpful to us," Dahlstrom said. "Just really focus on some points."