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Tax levy dominates meeting
Jan. 31, 2020

Mark Mitten

HOWARD LAKE, WAVERLY, WINSTED, MN – Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School Superintendent Brad Sellner noted, at the HLWW School Board meeting Jan. 27, that all polling locations in the school district will be open this November, given that it will be a general election.

One big question that will be on the ballot is a tax levy to generate funds for the HLWW School District.

Sellner presented a draft version of a community survey, which will help the school board understand why voters voted against a levy at the November 2019 election.

Sellner suggested bringing in specialized levy consultants to help plan and develop campaign materials, conduct public meetings, and fine-tune the survey based on their recommendations. The board agreed.

If the levy does not pass in November, Sellner wants the board to be prepared.

He suggested asking teachers and staff for input regarding possible cost reductions to help with the budget-planning process.

Sellner suggested several ideas to consider, and emphasized they were only ideas at this stage, to generate helpful workshop discussion.

His suggestions included: balancing class sizes between Winsted Elementary and Humphrey Elementary in Waverly, which may allow for staff reductions; increasing activity fees; and reducing the number of sports games.

“I do think, this time around, it is my opinion, that in our levy campaign, we’ve got to give the public some specifics about what could happen . . . if the levy doesn’t pass,” Sellner explained. “You either raise more revenue, or you cut expenses.”

State funding has been a growing concern for Minnesota schools across the state, Sellner said, specifically with inadequate special education funding.

He noted the St. Cloud Area School District, working with an attorney, recently tried to sue the state for lack of special education funding. While it was thrown out of court at the district court level, Sellner said, it is being refiled, along with two other Minnesota school districts, and may become a class action lawsuit.

“Many years ago, the state and federal government said they would be covering the cost of special education, and they currently do not,” Sellner said, and noted that Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Public School District has a special education budget shortfall of $900,000 a year, referred to as the “cross-subsidy,” that is not reimbursed by the state.

If the levy does pass, Sellner envisions the district will be able to expand its technology programs, especially for middle school students.

The board is planning to finalize the levy amount in April.

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