Faribault area voters can expect to see two Faribault Public Schools-related questions on the November ballot: one to fund a seven-period day at the high school and the other to maintain current class sizes and prevent further staff cuts districtwide.
The School Board voted unanimously to support the two questions at its Monday meeting. Both include a tax impact.
The board’s biggest concern at this point is educating voters on what the questions they’ll see on the ballot, since there’s a chance the ballot may omit information on what the tax increase in each question would fund. According to Superintendent Todd Sesker, the school attorney came up with the language of the questions, which can’t be changed at this point, but the board can use up to 10 words in the question title to describe how the district would use the funding.
“It concerns me that there’s nothing in [the questions] to guide voters,” said Board member Jason Engbrecht. “ … Some may show up [to vote] without a good sense of what those questions are.”
Sesker said there’s no guarantee at this point that the questions will include information about the funding specifics, which is why it’s the School Board’s job to send out fliers to all taxpayers in the district describing the reasons for the proposed tax increase.
The tax impact for the seven-period day at the high school, which allows for more elective opportunities to students, is $800,000. For a home valued at $175,000, that’s $65 per year for 10 years with inflationary increases. In addition, the tax impact, if the second question is approved, is $416,000. For a $175,000 home, that’s $34 per year for 10 years.
Before approving the two questions, board members discussed the possibility of giving voters an option to revoke and replace the district’s existing operating levy, set to expire in three years. If the new levy were to pass, that would allow both levies to expire together in 10 years. The disadvantage in including “revoke and replace” as an option is it would potentially make the ballot confusing to voters.
“I’m absolutely in favor of revoke and replace, but I think with two questions it gets more complicated than I want it to be,” said Engbrecht. “I want to keep it simple.”
Board Chair John Currie said the ballot is “confusing enough to the seven of us here,” so he could imagine a typical voter would be confused as well.
Board member Yvette Marthaler made a motion to amend the two questions to include “revoke and replace” in the first question, but it failed. Board member Courtney Cavellier abstained. Marthaler’s motion to include the revoke and replace option in a third question on the ballot died for lack of a second.
The board plans to officially approve a resolution to hold a special election as well as the language included in the question’s title at its July 22 meeting.
During his last School Board meeting before retirement, Sesker received a positive evaluation from the district board and staff.
Currie shared comments from board and staff members — but without names attached. They called Sesker a “respectful leader,” who shows maturity when he disagrees and “does not show any negative emotions” in handling conflicts. His peers commented that he “believes in a bright future.”
The board offered Sesker feedback that they’d like to see him improve communication with both board members and the community.
While Sesker officially retires June 30, the School Board will meet for a special meeting Monday to discuss options for employing a new superintendent.
One option, Currie said Tuesday, is that Sesker could serve as superintendent in the interim until the board finds a successor. Other options include promoting an employee of Faribault Public Schools to the position or conducting a search.