Operating levy for New York Mills School System, Nov. 2
On Tuesday, November 2, taxpayers in New York Mills School District will have the opportunity to vote on a state equalized referendum levy that will help the school district continue to provide quality education to the students of NY Mills, according to Superintendent Todd Cameron.
Two questions will face voters. The first will revoke the current levy of $200.29 per student and replace it with a $450 per student levy. These funds will be used to keep current programs, electives, college classes, activities and staffing, he said.
The second question proposes to add a technology levy of $75 per student, which will give the district access to new technology, upgrades and improvements to existing technology.
The first question must be approved for the second to pass.
Seasonal recreation property will not be taxed for the operating levy. Farmers will be taxed on their house, garage, and one acre of land. They will not be taxed on their agricultural land and buildings.
If the levy passes, resident voters will be supporting increasing local school property tax by an amount that allows the school district to gain revenue, plus additional state referendum and equalization aid.
The NY Mills School District is being matched dollar-for-dollar by the state of Minnesota - 50 percent comes from the state, and 50 percent comes from taxpayers. This is the equalization aid offered by the state of Minnesota.
Per $100,000 of market valuation on a house or a business, a person would see a $69 increase per year ($5.75 per month) if both questions pass.
Contextually, that's a little more than the cost of two gallons of gasoline per month.
Informational web tool launched
A Referendum Tax Calculator has been launched on the school system's website at www.nymills.k12.mn.us.
It allows residents to enter an estimated market value of their property to see how the proposed levy will affect them. The market value of a taxpayer's property is judged by county assessors.
Once a resident has entered his or her market value, fields will show a number of things: the decrease of tax from the current levy; the increase proposed on the levy's first question, and its annual net tax change; the increase proposed on the levy's second question; the annual net tax change; and the bottom-line total taxpayers will look at yearly.
Minnesota ranked 30th in U.S.
In a report by "Education Week Quality Counts 2009", which observed the 2007-2008 school years, Minnesota ranked 30th for Per Pupil Expenditures (PPE) in the United States.
North Dakota spends $1,409 more per student; South Dakota $747 more; Iowa $501 more; and Wisconsin $1,053 more.
NY Mills, despite severe cuts top-to-bottom, is still turning out students with college credits, Cameron noted.
Anthony Hendrickx, Senior Class Vice President, said the classes are necessary. "The forms of study and all aspects contribute to better learning at the high school level."
If the levy passes, students will continue to advance their education with college and vocational course offerings.
College savings through advanced courses
According to the University of Minnesota, students taking 12-18 credits would be charged $3,362.35 for tuition and fees for their first semester at college.
This does not include textbooks, room and board, meal plans, or student insurance (unless the student is already covered).
With access to college credits in the NY Mills high school, families and students are able to save thousands of dollars on tuition and fees in post-secondary education.
In most degree-seeking programs, 24 or more credits would save a student a year of study at the University of Minnesota - nearly $7,000 without including two full semesters of schooling, without taking food, housing, and books into account.
These funds, paid by the student or their families, could otherwise be retained within the community.
For more information on how much money would be saved by the continuation of these courses, please visit http://www.msnsu.edu/campushub and view "Student Charges and Payments."
All avenues explored
In 2009, the district cut over $450,000 in classroom teachers, technology, support staff, supplies, equipment and staff development.
The district has also increased fees to students for extra-curricular activities and meals, Cameron furthered.
He also pointed out that there are a limited number of textbooks available that must be left in the classroom. The purchase of more textbooks has already been deferred.
Cameron noted that, with all things considered, "All of our employees have stepped up to the plate."
"The school board recognizes the extreme value for our youth," he said. "Even with fewer electives and choices, students can still participate and succeed."
Despite all the cost containment and budget cuts made, programs such as Fine Arts, Choir, Band, Theater and Athletics have been maintained, Cameron said.
"A well-rounded education is important so that every student has the opportunity to reach their full potential," Cameron said.
Successful graduates of NY Mills may potentially aid the community in filling specialized jobs, starting a new business, or providing quality training or care to members of the community.
Students who have not yet graduated are already fulfilling that promise. Members of the National Honor Society - who require 25 hours of community service to apply - are already helping citizens.
One citizen lauded their efforts at the recent Civic & Commerce Meeting held on Thursday, October 7.
The Student Council is taking an active role by informing students about the referendum. President Lauren Bach stressed the importance of the referendum passing.
"We could lose the things kids look forward to. Besides a high school education, the school is offering students preparation for college courses," she said.
"This biggest thing is that the school and community are connected. Everyone has someone close to them who went to school, or went to school themselves."
Senior Class President Frank Peeters said he wouldn't know what to do if the referendum didn't pass.
"This community is a culture," he said. "Without all of the extra opportunities our community could turn sour."
Cody Clarkesan, Senior Class Secretary and Treasurer, agreed.
"If it fails, the school becomes duller," he said.
Bach furthered, "High school gives you something to feel good about and be connected in a unique way."
"We need generations supporting generations," Peeters said.
"If we lost these activities and college classes, student enrollment would fall," Bach said. "It might even take people away from the community to bring their kids to a better school."
She furthered, "Honestly, if they weren't offered here, I'd just go to secondary school."
Informational tools and public meetings are available for residents to gain further information on the levy and its monetary impact.
On Tuesday, October 19 at 7 p.m., a public informational forum will be held at the James Mann Performing Arts Center.
The Referendum Tax Calculator can be used at www.nymills.k12.mn.us.
2010 Referendum Facts
309 out of 338 Minnesota School Districts have an operating levy.
The average operating levy of those 309 school districts is $825 per pupil.
The average operating levy of the local school districts in our region is $900 per pupil.
The current operating levy for the New York Mills school district is $200.29 per pupil.
In 2009, the district cut more than $450,000 in classroom teachers, support staff, technology, supplies, equipment, and staff development.