Vote local first, then vote for U.S., state races

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 29, 2006

Jolinda Schreiber, Guest Column

Your attention has certainly been directed over the last several weeks toward the many candidates running for state and local positions. Amid their speeches, newspaper and radio ads, our local school district has also been trying to get an important message out to you regarding the upcoming operating levy referendum. As a member of District 241 school board, you understandably know why I personally would like to ask you to please vote on Nov. 11 &8212; by actually turning over your ballot to vote local first, especially concerning the school operating level referendum.

Community members, the board, and district staff have been working hard to get information out to area citizens about WHY a local school referendum is needed. For over two decades the Albert Lea Area Schools &8212; as well as most other districts across the state of Minnesota &8212; have had to reply upon locally approved operating levies to provide funding for a wide array of classroom and educational services. The school board and district administration have continually monitored the fiscal health and financial future of our school district.

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This analysis and long-range planning has led us to the see the absolute necessity to revoke the present operating levy and ask you

to replace it with a new levy. This new levy will help us maintain the educational programs for our community&8217;s children and help us meet the increase in operating expenses.

My children, who graduated from Albert Lea High School in 2003 and 2005, both enjoyed the wonderful educational experience given to them by those of you who helped pass referendums in the past. NOW, my husband and I &8212; along with other citizens in Albert Lea &8212; want to make sure the children in school today have the same wonderful opportunities. For all of us, it is our gift to the next generation of students!

The question on the November ballot asks you, the voter, to approve a referendum that would revoke our current levy at $497.87 per pupil and replace it with an operating levy that will provide $957.87 in local dollars per pupil. Many people have asked board members for specifics in what this operating levy will provide. The money generated from the levy will go into the general operating budget of the district, which pays for everything from classroom teachers to the electric bill.

The new levy, if approved, will be an integral piece of the local education funding pie. Yes, the state provides approximately 87 percent of our general operating budget. However, it is our current operating levy that helps the district make up the remaining dollars, allowing the local community to have a say in how our community schools are funded &8212; and what you want our school district to look like.

The following are a few facts and figures about this November&8217;s operating levy. I encourage all of you to find out as much as you can regarding this important local issue, and to feel free to ask questions! Our community members and school staff, who formed the TEAM committee, are very knowledgeable and are a wonderful source for you to go to! If they don&8217;t know the answers, they are committed to finding those answers and getting back to you!

Quick levy facts:

The new operating levy will:

&8212; Provide a stable source of funding for the district&8217;s existing operating budget.

&8212; Help the district maintain smaller class sizes.

&8212; Maintain elementary bus service for students living more than one mile from school.

&8212; Maintain a reasonable student fee cost for fine arts and athletics.

&8212; Maintain the band, choir and orchestra classes in the middle school.

&8212; Maintain most electives so crucial to the High School student trying to make career and higher education decisions.

&8212; Maintain the high level of quality education we are so blessed to have in District 241!

Quick levy figures:

&8212; If approved, the new levy will provide $957.87 per pupil to the district.

&8212; The increase to the school portion of local property taxes on an average valued home ($100,000) would be about $129 per year or about $10.75 per month.

&8212; The new operating levy proposal is for 5 years, allowing the district to continue to dedicate a higher than average level of its spending directly into the classroom. (When you vote yes, you are designating that your dollars be spent for the school&8217;s operating expenses only &8212; they will not be used for building projects or remodeling purposes.)

If you&8217;d like to learn more about the operating levy, please feel free to go to our school district web site at On the left side of the page, look under the flag and click on the tab marked &8220;Referendum 2006.&8221;

There you will find four choices: 1. Parents and Community Referendum Information, 2. Referendum Information Power Point, 3. Proposed Budget Deficit Reduction Plan, 4. Comments and Questions regarding the referendum. After you have reviewed this information please tell others about our Web site.

I know that financial concerns confront many of us, but I ask you at this crucial time to please not forget the educational needs of our students.

They are our future &8212; for our community, state and our nation!

By voting YES, you are giving the gift of a good education to the next generation! Please help us maintain the educational programs we have that help children grow into well educated and well rounded contributing community members of tomorrow.

And remember, when you go to the polls, turn your ballot over and please vote local first!

Jolinda Schreiber is a member of the Albert Lea school board.