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With years of lagging state support behind them and seeing little chance of a turnaround in the future, about a third of Minnesota school districts intend to go to their taxpayers for help this fall, the Minnesota School Boards Association reported Wednesday.
"When you're in a school district and you look at how the state has been funding schools for the past 10 years, and you look forward to what to expect, it's not too good," said Greg Abbott, association spokesman.
He said 113 school districts have taken the necessary question to put an operating levy on the November ballot. Fifty-one percent of them would renew an existing levy. Some seek to both renew a levy and ask for additional money.
"The big thing is that more than half of them are renewals," Abbott said. "It won't have a big increase in most people's taxes."
It will be the busiest Election Day for Minnesota schools in the past 10 years, surpassing the 101 levy elections in 2007 but trailing the 188 elections in 2001, he said.
It might even be more than 113 districts, Abbott said, but the association doesn't yet have a final tally of districts going to their voters for capital improvements, such as remodeling buildings or leasing technology. He said he expected a total of 125 to 130 districts will have questions on the November ballot.
Figures from the Minnesota Department of Education show that per-pupil education funding has failed to keep up with inflation since 2003, leaving school districts more reliant on local taxpayers.
However, Rep. Patrick Garofalo, R-Farmington, the chairman of the House Education Finance Committee, said that during the past session the Legislature approved a $100 bump in per-pupil spending along with other increases that totaled a $650 million increase in education spending.
Garofalo has been critical of districts asking for more money from taxpayers, as opposed to just seeking to renew an existing levy.
"For taxpayers, the first question is how are districts planning on spending their first increase (from the Legislature) before they start spending their second increase" from a new levy, he said.