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Litchfield's SOD plan approved by Dept. of Education

LITCHFIELD -- The Litchfield School District will propose a referendum this year after the Minnesota Department of Education approved its statutory operating debt recovery plan.

Following two months of discussion and dissection, the state approved Litchfield Public Schools' plan last week, according to Superintendent Bill Wold.

"The good news is we got the approval," Wold said Tuesday. "The not-so-good news is now we have to go do it."

Wold told the School Board about the approval during Monday's regular meeting.

He said the approval process went smoothly, partly because the district worked closely with a representative of the Department of Education while creating the plan.

The district can now pursue a new operating levy by proposing a referendum to voters, Wold said. In November, voters turned down a request for a $300-per-student increase to the operating levy.

Wold said the School Board spoke briefly about proposing a referendum sometime soon.

"We talked a little bit last night that the focus is it would be this spring, in May," Wold said. He added that nothing has been set in stone. "There's still some work the board has to do yet."

The district must request permission from the state education commissioner prior to any referendum, Wold said.

The district can continue to pursue operating levy questions until one is approved by voters or the district exits statutory operating debt, whichever comes first.

Overall, the district's three-year plan includes more than $1.2 million in budget reductions, likely to affect teaching positions and programming. The district has already enacted $328,750 in budget reductions for the remainder of the current school year.

If a referendum for a new operating levy passes prior to 2010, the district won't implement reductions for the 2010-11 school year.

"This (school) year, it looks like we start the year with a referendum, to the middle of the year with statutory operating debt and then end the year with a referendum," Wold said. "That's what our life looks like."