Oct 21, 2021 | By: Emma Hudziak

Golden Apple: Bemidji Schools Taking Another Shot at Referendum in November

This past Monday, the Bemidji School Board held a meeting to discuss the upcoming referendum vote. Bemidji Area Schools Superintendent Tim Lutz took some time to run through the district’s budget situation, highlighting that the state is not keeping up with inflation, and underfunded mandates. These two reasons are why the districts budget is in deficit.

Lutz says that if this referendum is approved, it will allow for Bemidji Area Schools to be able to stop making faculty cuts, and they can continue to have class sizes that are manageable and maintain staffing. Over the last few years in Bemidji, the school district has lost an average of $4 to $4.5 million dollars due to the high expenses that they cover out of their savings for both special education and transportation.

There are three things that school districts can do to eliminate deficit spending and to stabilize a budget. The first is to seek more funding from the state, but this isn’t generally successful for the Bemidji School District. Another solution they have tried is to reduce expenditures. But, there was nothing else to cut, which leaves them with the third option of an operating levy.

The district proposes sunsetting the existing $180 per student levy and replacing it with a new levy. Approval of this levy will authorize an increase of $280 per student for a new total of $460 per student over the next 10 years.

Lutz shares that it does cost more for people going to the public, and that is why they do their best to keep costs down and to keep their operating levy and voter-approved taxes as low as possible.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 2, 2021, with early/absentee voting going on right now. More information can be found at referendum.isd31.net.

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