ROCORI OPERATING REFERENDUM
We are less than a month away from the 2012 election! Of course there is a lot of energy being directed into the election with the wide range of offices and issues at stake in the election. From the office of the President of the United States to positions at the local city council and school board, there are many different positions up for election.
Because there are a variety of issues in the election, we want to be sure voters understand the ballot question that the ROCORI District has put forward in the election. Along with the school board positions, the district has a question involving the renewal of an operating referendum. I would like to take time to share information about the operating referendum.
BALLOT QUESTION BACKGROUND
The ballot question involves the operating levy within the district which was approved in 2007. The referendum was originally approved for a six year period. This means the tax levy is in place through 2013 and provides revenue for the district into the 2013-14 school year.
The referendum ballot question value was set at $375.56 per pupil unit. This is based on the current value of the referendum. The current referendum provides the district with a little more than $800,000 in operating funds.
The district is asking to renew the referendum for a period of 6 years.
HOW IS THE QUESTION WORDED?
This is the actual question that will appear on the ballot:
SCHOOL DISTRICT BALLOT QUESTION 1
RENEWAL OF EXPIRING
REFERENDUM REVENUE AUTHORIZATION
The board of Independent School District No. 750 (ROCORI School District) has proposed to renew the school district's existing referendum revenue authorization of $375.56 per pupil which is scheduled to expire after taxes payable in 2013. The proposed referendum revenue authorization would increase each year by the rate of inflation and be applicable for six years, beginning with taxes payable in 2014, unless otherwise revoked or reduced as provided by law.
Shall the increase in the revenue proposed by the board of Independent School District No. 750 be approved?
By voting "yes" on this ballot question, you are voting to extend an existing property tax referendum that is scheduled to expire.
KEY NOTES FROM THE BALLOT QUESTION
Some have asked why we use the value of $375.56 within the question. This is actually a reference to the manner in which state funding is determined.
Originally, in 2007, the request was intended to generate about $800,000. The state doesn’t allow us to simply put that number forward! The state requires us to use a number that works within funding formulas which is the per pupil number. Because of the funding formula, we have to share the number in the way the state Department of Education recognizes it--$375.56 per pupil.
Some people ask about the wording using the term, “increase.” If the referendum is truly a renewal, why does the question use the word “increase.” We want to be very clear with voters on this issue. The law requires the ballot question to be worded this way—even though it is a renewal. The primary issue is the fact that the referendum has an inflationary factor which could result in an increase depending upon economic conditions. However, the tax impact is the same as the taxes paid in the previous year—there is not an increase.
The last line of the ballot is important to note. The issue demonstrates the renewal—a vote in favor of the referendum is a vote “to extend an existing property tax referendum that is scheduled to expire.”
The ballot question is a renewal of the original referendum. All of the elements are the same as they were with the original question.
The length of the referendum is six years—as was the original. The school board debated, quite honestly, the length of time that would be proposed in the renewal. An operating question can be authorized for up to ten years, but community members pointed out to that a “true renewal” would go to the terms of the original ballot question at six years. As the board considered this question, they agreed and set the renewal at six years.
The original question included the inflationary clause; so does the renewal. The inflationary rate is determined by factors set by the state of Minnesota so the district does not actually determine the rate. The value of the inflationary element, at least to the district, is that the scope of the referendum is sustained through inflationary pressures rather than being eroded over the life of the levy authority. Again, the clause was included in the original and is extended in the renewal.
As I noted at the start, the election is in the midst of all the other election issues. Election day is general election day—Tuesday, November 6, 2012. All of the polling places and times are set by the general election conditions.
I will return to the topic of the operating referendum next week to add some detail and background on the question. We want voters to understand the question, the rationale and the issues. If voters have questions about the referendum , we want to clarify those issues and help people to understand!