Administrator’s Corner: Renewal of operating levy on ballot this fall

Published 8:00 pm Friday, September 3, 2021

Administrator’s Corner by Mike Funk

Albert Lea Area Schools will be asking district residents to renew an operating levy for the school district that expires this school year on Tuesday, Nov. 2. If the levy vote fails, our school district will cut $2 million from its annual budget, eliminating dozens of positions in our district and negatively impacting our local economy. Since we are not seeking an increase, the passage of the levy will keep the school portion of residents’ taxes the same, or taxpayers may see a slight decrease.

Mike Funk

Ninety-nine percent of districts in Minnesota currently have voter-approved operating levies to support district operations. School funding in Minnesota has not kept up with inflation, which compels schools to seek extra support from their residents.

This operating levy pays for district operations. Operations include salaries, curricular materials and technology. Operating levies are different from building referendums, as residents are taxed in a different manner. In addition, agricultural land is not taxed, so area farmers will see no impact on their land.

As I enter my 13th year as superintendent of Albert Lea Area Schools, fiscal responsibility is one of the areas I am most proud of. If this levy is approved, the annual tax impact on $100,000 home (about the average home price in Albert Lea) is $430. This is $3 more annually than it was in 2014.

Our district has faced some slight headwinds with enrollment over the past couple of years, with a slight decline in enrollment. Since the district is funded on a per-pupil basis, we have adjusted accordingly, cutting over $1.6 million from our budget since 2019. We are anticipating flat enrollment for the next few years, so this local assistance is vital as we continue to provide a quality education for our students.

Our strong school system benefits our entire community. We are proud of the many offerings and activities we have for our students and our ability to host events for our local spectators of fine arts and athletics. Over the next few weeks, you will hear about many of the great things in our district from building leaders.

Please circle Nov. 2 on your calendar for our election day, or contact the county auditor for an absentee ballot, which will be available on Sept. 17.

The operating levy will be the only item on the ballot this fall.

Mike Funk is Albert Lea Area Schools superintendent.