Increase to Upsala’s operating levy expected to reduce class sizes, allow for much-needed upgrades

By EMILIE THIESSEN
Staff Writer
emilie.thiessen@ecm-inc.com

Upsala Supt. Gery Arndt said he doesn’t think administration can trim down operations any more than they already have in the school.

“We are as bare bones as we can possibly get,” he said.“I can’t find any other place to cut any more.”

On Nov. 8, Upsala residents will have a chance to change that, Arndt said, by voting in favor of a referendum calling for an increase in the annual per-pupil levy.

The referendum will ask Upsala taxpayers to increase the levy by $450 per student, per year. The increase would rescind the current operating levy of $500 and replace it with a $950 levy. If approved, the new levy would bring in an additional $105,800 for the district.

The administration has been postponing essential updates and upgrades to basic technology  because of a general lack of funds, Arndt said. Updates to yearly curriculum have also been put on the back burner, especially when it comes to reading education.

The school’s roof is already in need of repairs and the school will soon need to purchase a new bus, which will cost more than $90,000.

Most importantly, Arndt said, is the need to facilitate smaller class sizes for kindergarten through third-grade students as class sizes continue to grow.

Arndt said the school district cannot afford to wait any longer to make these updates. Not being able to hire additional teachers for the younger students would contribute further to over-crowded classrooms, something Arndt says is unacceptable.

The cost for both curriculum and technological updates would be more than $135,000 – not including the cost of hiring new teachers. These amounts would be very difficult to come up with if residents vote ‘no’, he said.

Because the school has one more year on the current five-year operating levy of $500, Arndt said if voters choose not approve the increase, the school would work with the current amount until next election. In the fall, Arndt said, however, the school would have no choice but to ask for the increase again.

Arndt said area students have been receiving below average per-pupil levies for years. Though $450 may seem like a significant increase to some, the amount would only bring the levy amount closer to the state average.

If the new levy is approved by voters, Arndt said property tax would subsequently rise. For residents with a home valued at $75,000, the estimated net tax increase would be $90 per year, or about $7.50 a month. For residents with a home valued at $100,000, the net tax increase would be $121 per year, or about $10 a month.

Arndt said these estimated numbers would be in addition to their regular property taxes for the school, county and city or township.

“This is a day of no new taxes and everybody is hurting,” he said. “I understand, but we have to look out for the younger generation.”

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