Town hall meeting Tuesday regarding the future of Delano schools
By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN The public is encouraged to attend a town hall meeting Tuesday, April 17 to discuss a Delano Public School District operating levy coming up for a vote this fall.
The meeting will start at 7 p.m. at the Heritage Center (former library, across from Delano City Hall), and will include a short presentation from school district representatives and Delano’s Maintaining Educational Excellence (MEE) campaign committee.
“It will also be a chance for people to visit about the campaign,” said MEE campaign committee member Alysia Zens. “We really want to hear from people, no matter what their opinion is.”
In 2011, residents were asked to vote on increasing the district’s operating levy from $426 per pupil to $990 per pupil, and it failed by 159 votes.
According to Zens, some voters mistakenly thought that because the proposed “per pupil” amount was doubling, their tax burden would also double.
“That is not the case at all,” Zens said. “The average household increase last year would have been $10 to $15 per month.”
Although the numbers for this year’s ballot will not be finalized until state funding data is analyzed, the school will definitely need to ask for something, according to Zens.
“The levy expires and we have to go back,” she said.
When the levy failed in 2011, the district began the task of reviewing the approximately $800,000 in recommended cuts for the 2012-13 school year.
This fall’s levy would not be asking voters to fund new projects or improvements, but would simply be about maintaining status quo.
“It’s about keeping the greatness we have,” Zens said. “It would truly be catastrophic to the district to have this levy not pass.”
The school isn’t the only place that could be affected, however.
“This is important to every one of us,” Zens said. “Our community is all based out of our strong schools. We’re not going to attract young families if not for this great school district.”
Several community members have expressed their desire to pass a levy in 2012 by commenting on the Vote for MEE website. Below is one example:
“Our family moved to Delano in 2009. The major factor in choosing Delano was the quality of the school district,” Michael Karpen noted. “In the two years we have been part of Delano schools, we could not be happier with the quality of education that our children have received. For this reason, we will be voting ‘yes’ on November 8th. We cannot afford the risk of the impact that a ‘no’ vote would have on the quality of education our children receive or the impact to our community.”
According to an operating levy presentation at the school last year, Delano’s students consistently perform well above the state average, while the school spends less than the state average per pupil.
The cost per pupil in Delano was $8,204 in 2009, while the average Minnesota school’s cost was $10,639 per pupil.
Meanwhile the 2010 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA-II) tests showed a state average of 66 percent proficient in math and 72 percent proficient in reading. Delano’s proficiency was about 85 percent in both subjects.
Delano’s average ACT score in 2010 was also high 24.2 compared to the state average of 22.7.
“The district has done a good job of being responsible with the funds they have,” Zens said. “There is no fat.”
Delano has already taken several cost-saving measures, which were effective at the beginning of the 2011-12 school year, including:
• $76,148 cut staff development budget;
• $55,129 reduction in district office staff;
• $30,000 reduction in instructional supply budget by $10,000 in each building;
• $17,000 elimination of busing for Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic School in Loretto, which closed;
• $4,000 cut employee assistance program;
• $2,055 restructuring of webmaster position;
• $2,000 combining polling locations for odd-year elections.
At last year’s levy presentation, school board members expressed concern about increasing class sizes and decreasing student opportunities. They said that while they don’t want to ask local taxpayers for money, they don’t know of another option.
The Vote for MEE website states that the local levy is necessary due to inadequate funding from the state.
Tuesday’s town hall meeting will be an opportunity for residents to discuss the levy’s affect on the school and the community.
Later on, volunteer action meetings will take place for anyone interested in helping with the campaign. Meetings are scheduled for Tuesday, April 24 and Tuesday, May 8 at 7 p.m. in the Heritage Center.
For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, call (612) 708-3949, or follow the link to the Vote for MEE website on the Delano Herald Journal homepage, www.delanoheraldjournal.com.