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Wadena School Board hires consulting firm to help push through levy referendm

The Wadena-Deer Creek School Board gave Superintendent Virginia Dahlstrom approval to seek out the help of a consulting firm in preparing a levy referendum in November.

A Nov. 3 vote on the question of an operating levy increase would be the end result of hiring a consulting firm. The firm's job would be to collect pertinent data relating to the issue and give the board options.

"It is a good idea to have an outside organization with the facts," Dahlstrom said.

The current levy of $101.17 per student will expire in 2011. The average levy referendum in Minnesota schools is currently $844 per student. WDC district voters rejected a $700 per student levy referendum in November of 2007. Dahlstrom was hired in 2008 to replace former Superintendent Jerry Enget.

The levy amount voters would be asked to consider this November does not have to be decided until July or August, but Dahlstrom wants voters to be aware that the state bases their amount of aid to school districts on the amount of local dollars that go into education. The state's current aid is based on the $100 figure that has been in place since 2001.

"A lot of people don't know that we aren't getting this state aid because we don't have a larger referendum in place," she said.

Some of the areas that Dahlstrom would like to put money into are technology, early childhood development, staff development, increasing math achievement scores and supporting the early reading program. She will identifying areas for the board in the coming weeks.

"The money will be used for student academic achievement," Dahlstrom said.

The board's only choice for a vote on the issue is November. Only districts that are in statutory operating debt can hold elections and can choose when they have referendum votes.

The idea behind the levy increase is to keep the WDC district competitive with other school districts, an important consideration in a period of open enrollment. The state is currently hung up on a new budget and the amount of state aid for schools may not be known until August. Education has traditionally received the largest slice of the pie in Minnesota, but health care is expected to receive more in the years ahead.

"Quality education does take money," Dahlstrom said. "In order to be competitive with quality education and technology we do need financial support. Even streamlining as much as we have been doing, in order to keep abreast with the technology that we need for our students and staff we need additional funding."