When voters head to the polls next month, they’ll be asked to approve an operating levy expected to provide Kenyon-Wanamingo Schools with another $400,000 annually, money district leaders say they need to improve and expand opportunities and technology, replace outdated curriculum and keep steep budget cuts at bay.
The referendum asks voters to revoke the district’s existing operating levy of $296 per pupil, and to replace that authorization one that’s $800 per pupil, $46 under the state average.
It’s the second time in two years, school officials have asked voters to revoke the existing levy and replace it with a higher one. Last fall, 42% of district voters favored a replacement of $460 per pupil. A second authorization of $300 per pupil fell by a 22-point margin.
What happens if the levy passes?
If the levy passes, K-W will continue to improve and expand on learning opportunities and technology, and purchase new curriculum to replace the outdated curriculum. The district would also maintain sustainability of all resources while keeping class sizes down .
Boysen says the district would not only maintain programming, but also look to the future.
“I’m routinely having conversations with area colleges and universities to see how we can spice up the menu, since we are always looking to see how we can provide better experiences for our students,” said Boysen. “If we want to improve our test scores, we have to update our curriculum that is 10-20 years old, and some even go back to the 1990s.”
The money would also help keep school facilities up to code. There are also other parts of the buildings that need to be watched besides the beautiful, new additions.
“In the bond referendum, the community came out and supported us for that, and now we are asking the community to help support us to sustain what we already have,” said Boysen.
Comparisons of surrounding districts indicate K-W, currently at $296 per pupil has the lowest voter approved authority per pupil unit for the 2020-21 fiscal year. The numbers exclude local optional revenue. Owatonna is at $483 per pupil, Cannon Falls $500, Triton $750, Faribault $767, and Zumbrota-Mazeppa is at $1,749. The weighted state average falls at $846.
“We know that people out there are working hard and some families are struggling to make ends meet,” said Boysen. “We are asking for an amount of money that’ll help us not only sustain but also help us plan for the future.”
As a superintendent, Bryan Boysen says he is constantly looking ahead at the future and planning for it. Public schools play a vital role in communities, Boysen says, many times as the highest employer in the district and calls out to help others in need through feeding families.
“I encourage people to visit our website and see all the things K-W schools are doing,” said Boysen. “I think people are seeing the wonderful things we are doing, it’d be great if our districts were fully funded by the states, but they’re not.”
What happens if the levy fails?
If the levy fails, Boysen says staffing and student services would be reduced in all schools. Less funding would result in the cutting of staff and programming. Extracurriculars, class choices and transportation would also experience reductions. Class sizes would increase. Curriculum and technology purchases would be delayed indefinitely.
“Overall, there would be a reduction in all opportunities,” he said.
Boysen believes the 2019 levy failed because voters didn’t feel they were well informed and didn’t know where the money was going.
To remedy that, Boysen will host two town hall meetings. The meetings are open to the public, and will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. Oct. 14 at K-W Elementary School in Wanamingo and from 7 to 8 p.m. Oct. 28 at K-W Middle-High School in Kenyon. Both meetings are available via Zoom. Flyers, which includes a breakdown of how the levy will impact taxes based on a property’s estimated market value, have also been mailed to district residents.
The district has already made cuts following last year’s levy failure. Boysen says former interim superintendent David Thompson led the district through some difficult, but wise decisions to cut programming. One of more noticeable changes the district made is the combining of the superintendent and elementary principal jobs. That’s been filled by Boysen. He says that decision alone has saved the district a lot of money.