Benson schools plan fall levy referendum

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In April, the District 777 Board of Education went through the agonizing process of cutting $635,909 from its budget.
It meant eliminating and paring back programs that teachers, parents and former students said were essential to give the children of the community a well-rounded education. It also meant larger class sizes, one less bus route and putting off necessary capital expenditures for things such as fixing roofs and purchases for the computer lab.
Now faced with declining enrollment continuing to take a toll on revenues, the board needs to raise additional money to avoid even deeper cuts over the next several years. This fall the school board will seek voter support for what is called a “revoke and replace” levy.
It will ask the district’s voters to approve a $1,200 per pupil unit levy that will raise an additional $1.141 million for education in the first year. The levy then increases by the rate of inflation over the next three years. It raises the current levy of $720 per pupil unit by $480. The current levy raises a total of $684,853 in additional funds for education.
Not all of that $1,200 per pupil unit levy will come from local taxpayers. If voters approve the new levy amount, the State of Minnesota will pick up 30 percent of the cost; local taxpayers will contribute $840 to get $360 from the state.
The proposed levy increase would mean a homeowner with a $50,000 house would pay an additional $71 in real estate taxes in 2014.

The following figures show how low a fee the Benson homeowner pays stacked up to other districts.

Total School Taxes Paid 2011 on a $125,000 home

School District    Amount    Difference
Benson    $275
Minnewaska    $348    + $73
KMS    $405    + $130
Lac qui Parle Valley    $457    + $182
Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa    $496    + $221
Montevideo    $580    + $305
Hancock    $597    + $322
Morris    $680    + $405
MACCRAY    $739    + $464

Photo: A family heads to school Tuesday morning as classes at Benson Public Schools get underway for the 2013-14 year.
 

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