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Referendum Information

More information about the 2019 Watertown-Mayer Public Schools referendum will be available soon.

If you have any questions, please contact Ron Wilke, superintendent, at Ron.Wilke@wm.k12.mn.us or 952-955-0485.

 

 

For release: July 22, 2019

Watertown-Mayer School Board approves referendum for November

Operating and bond levy would address revenue and facility challenges

 

The Watertown-Mayer school board unanimously approved a two-question ballot for a Nov. 5, 2019 referendum at its July 22 meeting. The first question seeks voter approval of an operating levy increase that would provide an extra $425 per student in revenue. Question two seeks voter approval of a facilities/bond levy to pay for classroom modernization, outdoor education and activities, parking lot safety, and long-term maintenance. Question one must pass for question two to pass.

 

Revenue challenges

“State revenue has not kept pace with inflation, and new revenue is important to help us maintain what we have and focus on new priorities,” said Stacy Unowsky, school board chair. “Both the investment in our program and our facility is so important for our students and our community.”

 

In a 2019 community opinion survey, 73 percent of Watertown-Mayer residents agreed that ongoing investments in the schools are needed. Without an investment in revenue, the district is forecasting the need for $1.5 million in budget reductions, resulting in higher class size and fewer student programs, over the next three years. Watertown-Mayer Schools is in the bottom ten percent in per pupil funding in Minnesota (including federal, state and local revenue sources), and has among the lowest voter approved operating levies in the area.

 

“Our current operating levy results in $67 in additional revenue per pupil each year,” said Ron Wilke, superintendent. “Most of our neighbors collect more.” The Waconia Schools operating levy provides $536 per pupil and Dassel-Cokato receives $663.

 

“We want to maintain class size and programs while also investing in new priorities, based on our new profile of a graduate, which was developed with the aid of community members,” Wilke added.

 

Facilities challenges

Watertown-Mayer’s facilities are showing some age in certain areas, according to Wilke. Some classrooms and educational spaces, especially in career, tech, ag and library areas, are outdated.

 

“Education has really evolved even in just the last decade,” Wilke said. “Computer labs are no longer needed, the way we deliver special education services has changed, the need for flexible, more

collaborative learning spaces is much greater. Meanwhile, the old stuff really needs long-term maintenance.”

 

Some infrastructure inside and out of middle school and high schools are aging and worn, such as outdated bathrooms, cafeteria, food service equipment, and worn doorways and brick work.

The track and competition fields are at the end of their useful life, and driveways and parking areas at the middle/high school pose a safety risk to pedestrians due to congestion and poor layout.

 

Proposed three-point solution

The school district proposes a three-point solution to manage the challenges it faces.

1. Continue to increase efficiency. Redirect funds to priority student education programs and eliminate expenses that no longer fit district priorities.

2. Explore private/public partnerships. Seek private, supplemental funding to further enhance programs or facilities. (Current examples include the Otto Bremer trust grant for expanded adult and intergenerational learning opportunities, and private contributions that supported the robotics program.)

3. Increase operating levy and capital revenue through a voter approved referendum.

 

The tax impact to owners of a property of average value in the district ($230,000) would be $14.34 per month if both questions are approved.

 

“The school board has spent months agonizing over this request of our taxpayers,” said Unowsky. “We are asking only for what we need. We believe this proposal strikes a reasonable balance that avoids most budget cuts that negatively impact students, but also respects the needs and budgets of our taxpayers.”

 

The school district will begin a comprehensive communications effort so voters can make an informed decision. The district will provide information on its website and social media, send information by mail to all residents, host meetings, and make presentations in the community.

 

For more information, contact Ron Wilke, superintendent, at Ron.Wilke@wm.k12.mn.us or 952-955-0485.