He expressed concern that if the levy were not renewed, the district would no longer be able to offer competitive programs and would lose a significant number of students to surrounding districts through open enrollment.
Board member John Hoffman pointed out that if we received the same amount of funding on a per pupil basis as an average district, it would have another $15 million a year. Losing $48 million would put the district significantly below average.
Question 2 calls for a capital project levy to provide $3 million for technology each year for 10 years. It's not contingent on passage of Question 1. It would provide equitable student access to computers and/or mobile devices in classrooms, labs and libraries as well as updated technology for teachers and other instructional support staff.
It would update classroom audio and video infrastructure, provide schools with wireless Internet access and provide for interactive classroom technologies, such as online learning.
If approved, this would be levied for 10 years beginning with taxes payable in 2012. Taxes on an average home, valued at $160,000 to $180,000, would increase by $2.25 to $2.58 per month.
Board member Kathy Tingelstad agreed there was a need for updated technology and pointed out the difficulty school districts have paying for it.
"Other forms of government are able to add it to their budgets without voter approval, just the approval of their elected officials," she said. "We are trying to play catch up with our technology."
Superintendent Dennis Carlson said the difficulty in keeping current with technology is the lack of a dedicated funding stream to pay for it.
He noted that State Representative Denise Dittrich and others have worked on this issue in the legislature, but there has been no legislative change.
"The difficulty is that we have to fund technology by hook or by crook," said Carlson. He explained the district was able to update some technology through funds to school districts from the settlement of an anti-trust class action lawsuit against Microsoft.
In addition, school fundraisers and parent group support have provided significant dollars for technology, but that creates inequities because some schools have a greater capacity to raise dollars than others.
He pointed out that whether or not the levy is renewed, the district will need technology.
Without a levy renewal, said board member Mike Sullivan, "you are going to need that technology to deliver as much of a reduced educational opportunity as you can." He said technology can save educational choices and classes for students.
"Some of our neighbors say technology is a luxury item, but right now it's a necessity. You need to have it to move the kids forward to where they need to be," said board member Marci Anderson.
Board member Wenzel pointed out that the technology proposal on the ballot will not provide "pie in the sky" technology, but a basic level all students need. "We have to provide that technology to our 6-year-olds and our 16-year-olds. This is a basic question to provide that educational equity to all our students."
Question 3 would authorize the board to levy an additional $12 million annually for 10 years as a stop-gap if inflationary state funding increases do not come through. It would help prevent future teacher lay offs and hold down class size.
Like Question 1, it would go into effect for taxes payable in 2013. Taxes on an average home would increase by $10.22 per month. This question is contingent on passage of Question 1.
Heidemann said the district received some additional money from the legislature for the coming school year and the next and he thanked local legislatures for their hard work in providing that. "However, the reality is that the state balanced the budget by asking school districts to borrow," he said.
Without a resolution to the state's budget difficulties, it is unlikely the Legislature will be able to provide inflationary funding increases in the next biennium. By having voter authority to increase the levy by an additional $12 million in 2013 and beyond, educational programs will have greater stability.
"This is an opportunity to take an honest look down the road," Heidemann said.