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New Levy Would ‘Simply Maintain’ Richfield School District

The superintendent lays out the consequences should the referendum fail.

it’s no secret Richfield, like many school districts, is struggling to balance its budget while maintaining a quality education system.

While school districts typically look to levies to increase course and activity offerings in schools, , would only maintain the district’s offerings, according to Superintendent Bob Slotterback.

“I’ve been asked a number of times what this money will be used for,” Slotterback told the in September. “If this referendum passes, we will not be giving the public anymore programs or additions, [but] simply maintain the district.”

Voting yes to the referendum would revoke the current per-pupil-number of $301.40 and authorize $717.40 as the new number—a net increase of $416. ,  said the new annual costs to taxpayers per household, with an average home value of $185,800, would be $119.

So what happens if it doesn’t pass? Staff cuts and class sizes will continue to rise, while course offerings, activities and those who work in school maintenance would face cuts.

“We’ve reduced everywhere we possibly can," Slotterback said  in September.

“We’ve turned the heat down, we’ve extended our bus routes, we’ve reduced travel, we’ve eliminated training and on and on and on and on," he said. “But we got to the point this year where the vast majority of our cuts had to be teachers, and we’ve raised our class size by an average of three.”

Slotterback predicted elementary classes exceeding 30 students and high school classes in the 40s without the levy passing. At the same time, the district is down to 57 custodians, from 107 in 1982.

Slotterback said some have asked about cutting sports entirely, however that would only give the district $650,000 more to work with. Most important, Slotterback said, not offering sports would make “enrollment fall off the table,” thereby worsening financial conditions.

Kevin Maleck November 04, 2011 at 01:46 PM
Hello, Richfield Citizens for a Quality Community (CQC) - a group of Richfield residents committed to maintaining the quality of our community and the quality of our schools shares Dr. Slotterback's concerns! Pride in our community and home values are just two key things tied to the quality of our public schools. Retaining and attracting great families depends on having great schools. We are working hard to spread the word and get out the vote. Please contact us at richfieldcqc@gmail.com for more information! Vote YES! for Richfield Schools!
Gordon Hanson November 04, 2011 at 02:16 PM
The great news is that Richfield schools are on an upswing. Enrollment is increasing by impressive numbers. Innovation is thriving with the Dual Language and STEM schools, as well as programs throughout the district. Test results show the achievement gap narrowing and all student groups achieving at a higher level. For the benefit of the students, and the health of our community, we need to keep the momentum going. A strong and successful school system is one of the primary factors in determining the health and viability of a community. Let keep our schools strong. Let's keep Richfield strong. Let's vote 'yes' on the school referendums.
Caitlin Burgess (Editor) November 04, 2011 at 02:57 PM
I agree that a quality school system is important to keeping a strong community and I thank you two for your comments. But, I'm wondering ... who feels differently about passing the referendum? If so, what do you believe are the alternatives to increasing property taxes?
Mike E November 06, 2011 at 08:27 AM
I am all for a quality school system; but I do not see why it requires doubling the per-pupil cost. This increase is needed for one reason; last year you made your budget based around one time federal stimulus money (if you compare the 2011 to 2012 budget; it stands out like a sore thumb). Why should we pay for your short-sighted decisions? Why does general education need a 7% increase; unless student population is increasing by 7%?
Debra N. November 07, 2011 at 03:01 AM
Unfortunately, more money does not always equate to improved quality. With property values down, for sale signs, foreclosures and boarded up homes on the rise, why would you vote for increased property taxes right now? Vote No on the school referendums and save the remaining, struggling, Richfield property owners.
Todd Nollenberger November 07, 2011 at 03:26 AM
An approval of the ballot question on Tuesday would not double the per pupil cost. The operating levy in question is one of many revenue sources that make up the entire district budget. If approved, the additional tax would amount to $119 per year on the average home in Richfield. The idea that there is only one reason that the school board has requested an approval of additional funding is inaccurate. Schools are funded through a combination of state and local resources. The state contribution has not kept up with inflation for many years so the residents of Richfield (and hundreds of other MN communities) are being asked to step up and help maintain the quality programming and positive momentum that we have in Richfield. Unfortunately, school finances are complicated and not easily discussed in this forum. If anyone would like to discuss the referendum or school finances in general my phone number is 612-559-8049. Dr. Peter Toensing is also willing to discuss anything school district related at 612-910-7040.
Kevin Maleck November 07, 2011 at 03:36 PM
I don't believe this referendum is about improving the quality, it is about holding on to the quality we have. Good school systems attract families who are likely to be a stable influence in the community. Our home values are driven by market pressures. We have a limited number of single family homes and if there are more buyers than sellers, prices go up. On the other side of that is if our community becomes less desirable, there are more sellers than buyers and our home values go down. It does not take much pressure on a $180,000 home to influence the price by even 1%. 1% equates to $1,800 or 15 years of the extra amount in the levy. I consider that a great investment. Likewise, if the schools suffer because we decide to vote no, it is easy to see that families may look at large class sizes as a detriment and would likely to opt for a community with a better program. In that case, a drop of 1% would not be out of the question and our saving $120 per year could cost us $1,800 in home values. Then we have the question of quality of life and quality of community. Richfield is tight knit. It is not a place where everyone comes home from work and hunkers down in their homes only to wake and go back to work. We are more vibrant than that. Knowing our children are receiving the best education they can afford is important. Having pride in our schools is important. Having pride in our community is important.
Robert November 07, 2011 at 04:43 PM
If you think Richfield educates students for $360 per pupil, and thus would double by voting Yes, you're mistaken. That's merely a portion of the total. The levy will double, not the overall cost per student. It's actually more likely a single digit percentage increase. It's nothing compared to a community w/ poor schools. Vote YES for our community, our kids, our teachers and our future.

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