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Support Detroit Lakes school referendum

The Detroit Lakes School District has found a relatively painless way to increase its revenues by about $400,000 a year without hiking taxes.

We urge voters to support the operating levy referendum at the polls on Nov. 3.

The proposed operating levy has been carefully crafted so that nobody's taxes will go up, and a few will actually see their property taxes go down, if the measure is approved.

That's because the new operating levy is designed to replace a building bond levy that expires this year.

If approved, the 10-year operating levy will raise an additional $406,00 a year for the district.

The ballot measure would revoke the existing $319-per-pupil unit operating levy and replace it with a $457-per-pupil unit levy.

The total operating levy will generate about $1.3 million for the school district, up from about $900,000 a year under the existing levy.

The past eight years have not been kind to Minnesota schools when it comes to state funding, which has essentially been flat, causing a slow bleed in school finances as they lose ground to inflation year after year.

Unfortunately, the next few years don't look much brighter: It is too early to know how big a deficit lawmakers and the governor will face in the two-year budget set to begin July 1, 2011, but finance experts say it likely will be several billion dollars.

Residents need to step up and help the district weather the storm.

The district has implemented cost containments -- cuts and higher fees -- of $2.2 million over the past four years, but expenses for utilities, insurance, transportation, and textbooks continue to increase -- which means the district needs additional funds, even with no additional programs, staff or services.

The district doesn't haven't anything exciting planned for the referendum dollars. They'll be used for ongoing operating expenses; instructional materials and supplies; to prevent increases in class size; and for technology and maintenance projects.

If the referendum fails, the district says there will be significant spending cuts for the next several years.

A number of teachers and other employees will be laid off.

Reduced staff will result in a significant increase in class sizes.

Current programs will be cut, reduced or offered at an increased cost to students.

Polls will be open at the Middle School and the High School from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3.