Bemidji School District to explore another referendum

The Bemidji School Board will further explore an operating referendum request during their meeting Monday.

According to the results of a community-wide survey, the district is fairly confident that a referendum would pass.

The last operating referendum that was approved was in 2014, which was a $180 per pupil, 10-year levy that supports day-to-day operations such as staffing, programming, and student services.

Over the past few years, the district cut more than $4 million from the budget, which included reducing staff, increasing class sizes, increasing student fees, and closing Central Elementary and the Community Ed building.

Even with these reductions, staff has forecasted a budget shortfall of about $2.5 million a year.

A recent survey indicated that 36 percent of all residents would support a levy of $560 per student to reinstate some of the past cuts, and 25 percent supporting a $460 per student levy, to maintain the current level of programming and services.

The Minnesota Legislature recently increased funding for schools, but Superintendent Tim Lutz says the increases on the state level are not enough to avoid a budget shortfall.

Larissa Donovan is the News Director for the stations of Paul Bunyan Broadcasting and has been, almost without interruption, since Election Day 2016. She covers all the beats in north-central Minnesota, such as local government, crime, education, environment and social issues. She studied communications at Bemidji State University. You can follow along with Larissa's live tweets of meetings and events on Twitter!

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