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ACGC officials begin preparing for vote this fall on levy question

GROVE CITY –– Discussions are underway to help prepare the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School District for a vote this fall to renew the existing operation levy.

The ACGC school board voted last month to ask voters in November to renew an operating levy for another seven years.

The ACGC School Board on Monday clarified what role it can legally take in the process to inform citizens about the issue.

Chairman Joel Gratz said he wants to make sure proper steps are followed and that the board fulfills its responsibilities.

“I want to make sure we have our ducks in a row,” Gratz said.

Board member Judy Raske said the board should hold meetings in each of the three towns in the district to make sure residents receive accurate information about the proposed levy.

“Our obligation is to get the technical data out there,” Raske said.

Business Manager Dan Tait told the board it can provide information about the proposed levy and encourage discussion about it, but he said the board must “tread very lightly” and not politicize the issue by telling people how they should vote.

He said even if the board provides information about what programs could be cut if the levy isn’t passed and what the district could do with funding if the levy does pass, that could be perceived by some as “political posturing” and “threatening.”

Likewise, he said, the school administrative team can provide information but said it would be inappropriate to be involved with promoting the levy.

Tait said a “vote yes” committee that typically handles yard signs and media advertising should be driven by community volunteers. He said no district funds can be used to fund any promotional activities.

So far a committee has not been formally organized.

But Tait said the reason the board announced early in the year that a levy renewal would be on the ballot was to give the community enough time to form a committee and get the message out ahead of the November vote.

The district has a current per pupil levy of $1,075, which generates about $400,000 a year.

The board agreed not to set a firm figure for the proposed levy until the 2014 legislative session is completed case state education adjusts how school must calculate operating levy formulas, but the board’s intention is to renew at the existing amount.

Board member Jeanna Lilleberg said she’ll be going to the Capitol on Wednesday to testify about a Senate bill that’s proposing a pilot program to allow a group of school districts to publish their official minutes and other legal documents electronically rather than in a newspaper.

Lilleberg said the Minnesota School Boards Association asked her to testify on the bill, in part because there’s not a newspaper

The West Central Tribune and the Litchfield Independent Review both report on ACGC activities, but Lilleberg said that because of the large size of the district “neither paper covers the entire district.”

She also said there’s no paper published in the district that meets the requirement to be a legal newspaper.

Tait said there are advantages to printing legal documents in the newspaper, including historic archiving at an off-site location.

Lilleberg said just because she’s testifying in a hearing on the bill it doesn’t mean ACGC would be included in the pilot program if the bill passes.

In other action, the board held a brief close session to discuss strategy for contract negotiations. No action was taken.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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