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School seeks new funding

August 24, 2011
Kylie Saari - Staff Writer , Fairmont Sentinel

FAIRMONT - Fairmont Area Schools will ask voters to approve an operating referendum in November.

Residents will be asked to allow the district to revoke an existing levy of $500 per pupil unit in favor of a new, 10-year, $1,250 levy.

Superintendent Joe Brown says the change is necessary to keep the district from going into statutory operating debt by the 2014-2015 school year.

In addition to the $1,250 per pupil unit, the district is asking voters to consider a second question approving $150 per pupil unit to invest in technology.

Under the new levy, a homeowner of a $100,000 house would pay an additional $208 per year, plus $45 for the technology option. The total change in property taxes would be $253.

An owner of a $300,000 home would pay an increase of $760 if both questions are passed.

Only a house, garage and 1 acre of property can be taxed under the referendum. Agricultural land and businesses are not included.

Fairmont's current operating levy is the lowest of surrounding districts, with the next lowest being $1,476 in Truman.

Fairmont's existing $500 levy will expire in three years if not revoked and replaced.

Brown said the district is financially secure for this year because of increases in enrollment and a state aid bump of $50 per student unit approved by the Legislature. But without a change to the operating levy, the district predicts a budget deficit next year and state government intervention within three years.

"This is due to inflationary costs we have no control over," Brown said.

With the additional dollars created by the new operating levy, the district projects it would be above water through fiscal year 2015. The district does not like to make longer projections because its funding is dependent on decisions made by the Legislature.

Brown said the goals for the district are to maintain current facilities; expand the curriculum to include programs cut in previous rounds of budget adjustments, including agriculture programming; and build a cash reserve in line with what is recommended - 45 to 60 days of operating expenses. The district currently has 23 days of operating expenses in its budget.

Public meetings will be held to discuss the referendum and it impacts on students and homeowners in advance of the election.

In other business, Tuesday, the school board created additional sections of first grade and second grade, hired a high school social worker as well as three part-time Title I aides, and increased music teacher Molly Bleess' contract to full time.



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