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School District sends out second referendum notice due to changes

WILLMAR -- Property owners in the Willmar School District are receiving a second notice of the Nov. 4 operating levy referendum.

The second mailing, which will cost about $3,400, is due to an oversight by the district's financial adviser, Springsted & Associates. It includes a letter explaining why a second notice was mailed.

The second notice was needed "to get the right information out to the public, to property owners," Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard said Thursday. Officials with the district's financial adviser, Springsted, did preliminary calculations of the tax impact with the two questions linked. Under that scenario, the voters would have had to approve the first question seeking $201.51 per student in order to receive money from the second question, which seeks $374.36 per student. The majority of two-question levies in Minnesota are structured in this way.

However, the School Board decided last summer to separate the questions. That changed the amounts for the possible tax impact of question 2, but the changes were not made before the first notice was sent to property owners, Kjergaard said.

Once the problem was discovered, officials decided to send the second notice to make sure the correct information was made available, Kjergaard said.

The state provides aid for districts with levies up to $700 to offset some of the cost to local taxpayers. Willmar's current levy is $498.49 per student, and the amount of the first question would add $201.51, allowing the district to receive the maximum state aid available.

If the second question passes but the first doesn't, state aid will be available to offset the first $201.51 of that levy, but local taxpayers will pay the remaining amount without the help of state aid.

If both questions pass, the taxpayers will pay the full amount of question 2 without additional state aid.

The total tax increase if both questions are approved is more than the total of the increases listed for the individual questions. That's because the same amount of state aid is included in the calculations for each separate question, but can be included just once in the combined total. Both levies would go into effect next year and last for 10 years.

Kjergaard said the calculation of the different amounts for the levies is complicated. Some school districts might be able to calculate the tax impact themselves, "but I don't think there's anybody who does," he said. "That's what they (Springsted) do for a living."

A brochure will soon be sent to all district residents, providing information about district finances and why the School Board decided to ask the voters for additional funding, Kjergaard said.

That brochure may not ask people to vote in favor of the questions, because it is paid for with school district money.

A separate group, called Vote-Yes-Twice, is funded by private donations and is campaigning in favor of the referendum.

Information about the referendum and its tax impact is available on the school district's Web site,