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Kjergaard will host 3 sessions to talk about school levy

WILLMAR -- A series of three information sessions on the Willmar School District operating levy will begin Tuesday.

Willmar Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard will host the sessions, titled "A Community Investment," to be held at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, at noon on Oct. 7 and at 7 p.m. on Oct. 14. All of the sessions will be in the board room on the first floor of the Willmar Education and Arts Center, 611 Fifth St. S.W. Those attending the Oct. 7 session are invited to bring their lunch if they want.

Families, business leaders and concerned residents are encouraged to attend the meetings..

Voters will be asked in the Nov. 2 election to revoke a current levy of $498.49 per pupil unit and replace it with a levy of $898.49.

The new levy would last 10 years. The $498.49 levy is set to expire in another year. The new levy, if approved, would be in place for 10 years.

The new levy would bring the district's local per pupil levy to $1,100. The District's current levy is $700, which was increased to that level in 2008 when voters approved a 10-year $201.51 levy to reach the minimum threshold to maximize state funding.

School Board members have said they believe the levy can help strengthen the district's financial stability and will help them avoid making major budget cuts for a few years.

The district has cut more than $6 million from its $40 million operating budget since 2005. The combination of stagnant revenue from the state and growing expenses has contributed to the spending cuts and increased fees in Willmar as well as many other Minnesota school districts.

The proposed school levy is expected to generate $1.8 million in additional revenue for the district. The total school district levy would yield about $4.15 million.

"The Nov. 2 election is very important," Kjergaard said in a news release from the district. "The Board of Education wants to hear from voters what kind of school district residents want. We cannot continue to cut at the rate we have the past six years. Over $6 million of cuts have been made; options are running out and cuts are affecting core programming of reading, writing and mathematics."

If approved, the 2010 operating levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 house about $122 more a year or about $10 a month.

Voters may visit the school district's website and click on the levy calculator to determine the cost of the levy to them.

The district's website also has links to YouTube videos made by School Board members, explaining why they voted to hold the levy referendum.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340