District Holding Listening Sessions On Funding School

District Holding Listening Sessions On Funding School Click to Enlarge Photo: Jake Judd (KNSI)

(KNSI) - In the wake of voters in the Sartell-St. Stephen School District rejecting an operating referendum, the district wants to hear from residents on how to fund operating expenses.

The district is holding four listening sessions this month with the first one on Thursday, December 6th, at Blackberry Ridge Golf Course.

Superintendent Jeff Schwiebert says voters approved $105 million for a new high school and other building improvements in 2016, but that money can't be used for operating expenses.

"We're going to move into the new building, so therefor we need to come up with that revenue somewhere or we need to reduce our expenditures. So, that means id some of the programs that we currently offer are going to have to be changed a little bit, but we don't know how yet, we want to listen first."

By state stature, the district had to run a seperate levy for operating expenses and if the district had asked for the operating referendum in 2016 than they would have been collecting taxes for three years before the money was needed.

"We won't do a lot of explaining at the meeting because it's not our purpose at this meeting to explain why we're doing things it's our purpose at these meetings to listen, and we often forget to listen."

He says the district is expanding from four buildings to five with the old high school being turned into the middle school. The new high school will see students in the fall.

There’re around 4000 kids in the district and the student population is expected to grow.

He says Sartell is a property poor district because most of its tax base is residential with very little business and industrial tax base and therefor needs levies to operate.

The district last approved an operating levy in 2011.

School board members say they want to hear any questions voters have about the levy and operating budget.

So far, the district has no plans to go for anther levy.

The listening sessions are:

Thursday, December 6th 6:30-7:30pm at Blackberry Ridge Golf Course (3125 Clubhouse Road, Sartell, MN 56377). Blackberry Ridge is providing appetizers to those who attend.

Monday, December 10th 6:30-7:30pm at St. Stephen City Hall (2 Sixth Ave SE, St. Stephen, MN 56375)

Wednesday, December 12th 6:30-7:30pm at Liquid Assets (1091 Second Street S #600, Sartell, MN 56377)

Tuesday, December 18th 6:30-7:30pm at Sartell Community Center (850 19th Street S, Sartell, MN 56377)