MACCRAY levies receive overwhelming support
CLARA CITY -- A two-question levy was strongly approved Tuesday in the MACCRAY School District referendum. Question 1, asking for additional operating funds of $225 per student for 10 years, was approved by a vote of 643 to 202. Question 2, askin...
CLARA CITY -- A two-question levy was strongly approved Tuesday in the MACCRAY School District referendum.
Question 1, asking for additional operating funds of $225 per student for 10 years, was approved by a vote of 643 to 202. Question 2, asking for $65 per student for four years for maintenance funds, was approved on a vote of 638 to 201.
Each question was approved with 76 percent of the vote.
"All three of the communities passed it, which was encouraging," said Superintendent Greg Schmidt. "I'm really pleased that people seemed to understand where we were and that we were telling them the truth."
Clara City and Maynard supported both questions with more than 80 percent of their votes. The support was lower in Raymond, 61.5 percent, but still strong. Schmidt said he appreciated that a community where a number of families send their children to private school still showed support for the local public schools.
The $225 operating levy is expected to raise about $180,000 a year, though that figure will fall along with enrollment if it continues to decline. The $65 per student for maintenance projects will raise about $52,000 a year.
The district already has two levies in place -- a levy of $501.03 per pupil approved in 2001 and another $270 per pupil approved in 2005. Both were approved for 10 years.
The new levy amounts will be paid by taxpayers beginning in 2008. The money will be available to the school district for its 2008-09 school year.
The operating levy is intended to give the district a bit of a financial cushion for dealing with declining enrollment. School districts in Minnesota get most of their funding from state aid, and state aid is tied to enrollment figures. So, as enrollment declines in many rural school districts, so does their state aid.
School districts continue to deal with the fallout from two years of no increases in the basic education formula. While their state aid was stagnant, schools continued to face inflation, rising energy prices and rising health care insurance costs.
The MACCRAY School Board cut more than 10 percent of its budget last spring. The nearly $800,000 in budget cuts included closing the junior high building in Clara City and reducing one section in each elementary grade. The district operates elementary schools in Raymond and Maynard. The high school is in Clara City. The district made cuts at all levels, introduced some new fees and increased some existing ones.
As a result, the district was able to project a break-even budget for this school year. Schmidt said at an informational meeting before the election that the district will continue to look for ways to trim costs.
Still, the district expects its graduating classes in coming years to be much larger than the ones it greets each fall for kindergarten.
Schmidt said he thinks the budget cuts last spring helped pass the levy.
Informational meetings held last spring helped "set the table" for the levy referendum by helping the public understand the district's financial situation.
Even with the levies approved, it's possible there could be more budget cuts in spring 2008, he said, but they almost certainly won't be as drastic as they might have been without the levies.
In Clara City, Question 1 passed 299 to 66 votes, and Question 2 passed 294 to 66 votes. In Maynard, Question 1 passed 200 to 46 votes, and Question 2 passed 200 to 45 votes. In Raymond, Question 1 and Question 2 each passed 144 to 90 votes. The winning percentage was nearly 82 percent in Clara City, more than 81 percent in Maynard and 61.5 percent in Raymond.