Henry Smorynski, Sartell
The recent defeat of operating levy for District 748 likely has many reasons for individual voters. The school board and the superintendent need to consider some things before again requesting a new levy.
First, a May 24, 2016, article on the new high school referendum noted the “district likely would be asking voters in the future to approve an operating levy that could add $65-$70 a year in taxes on a $180,000 home.” This priced home is average for Sartell. The district levy requested was over double that indicated in 2016 for an average Sartell homeowner. The increase in taxes was thus far lower in 2016 and the presentation of the 2018 levy increase amount in 2016 could have affected negatively that close vote regarding a new high school.
A second issue is the district has not broken down clearly in segments what is purchased with the new levy. It does not seem justified by the district’s limited projected increase in students for the next decade. It does not adequately break down the costs for moving grade levels about and choices for doing so relative to facilities. Most importantly, it does not provide a minimum cost for maintaining the current high quality as opposed to costs that might be associated with increased levels of quality due to technology or other educational strategies.
Third, the school district is not being realistic about likely future tax conditions in the district. The city of Sartell is likely to raise taxes due to the new public services building as well as the likely annual operating costs of the Community Center. Most analysts believe the positive impact of the federal tax cuts on the national economy this coming year will disappear and a recession is likely in 2019. For Sartell seniors, the cost of living increases in 2019 Social Security checks will be wiped out by increasing healthcare costs and drug costs. The improved economy has not generated significant increases in middle-income families’ salaries and the rising costs of health care are dominating family budgets.
I believe the district must reduce their levy expectations to something more realistic. The much higher voting turnout for the recent referendum vote, nearly double, likely reflects the limits of investment the average resident is willing to pay. More than doubling the levy is unacceptable.