A referendum on the April 7 ballot asks Parkview School District voters for additional money for technology and curriculum upgrades, educational programming, busing and staffing costs.
The question requests $825,000 for the 2020-21 school year, $1.025 million in 2021-22 and $1.15 million in 2022-23.
The referendum comes on the heels of a three-year referendum for $350,000 per year that is set to expire this year. District Superintendent Steve Lutzke said there’s a genuine need for the money.
“We’re not able to continue down the path we’re going without that additional revenue,” he said.
Most of the referendum money would be used for staffing, Lutzke said.
The district spends about 60 to 65 cents of every dollar on employee salaries and benefits. Lutzke said several teachers are retiring after this school year, and attracting capable replacements with competitive salaries is important.
Taxes won’t change much because the referendum would kick in after the current one ends, which is part of the reason officials feel comfortable asking the public for help, Lutzke said.
“It’s kind of the perfect storm,” he said. “… Costs keep going up, but we don’t generate new revenue, so we’re in a position where we need to appeal to our community to help us out and keep funding the quality school district we have here.”
Today’s technology-focused society requires teaching students how to use technology, which is also covered by the referendum.
Another issue is the rising cost of transportation for students. The district pays about $400,000 each year for busing, and the cost increased $75,000 this school year.
Parkview is the biggest school district geographically for about 200 miles, Lutzke said, and that requires extensive busing. The district’s busing contract is slated to increase 4% each year for the next few years.
Lutzke said the referendum is necessary because the district’s enrollment is not increasing, and enrollment is how the state funds schools.
He hopes the community will vote “yes.”
“I don’t think any school district likes to have to go to referendum, and Parkview is no exception,” he said. “We looked at other opportunities so we wouldn’t have to ask our community for this monetary support, but we just weren’t comfortable losing that revenue.”
The referendum will not cover all costs, but the district has prioritized areas that need the money the most. It’s not a permanent solution, but Lutzke said it’s a good way to keep the district moving forward.
“We need to have good materials; we need to have good employees, and we need to have good facilities,” he said. “All of those things cost money, and I think right now the investment the Parkview community has made on our school system has paid dividends, and we don’t want to take a step back or regress on the progress we’ve made.”