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Levy referendum campaigns heat up

The group promoting the "vote yes" campaign on the school levy referendum is incorporating a new strategy as the Nov. 4 election day approaches.

"Together for Kids" will be bringing its "sales pitch" for the approximate $950,000 annual tax increase to some of the area's largest employers, according to Pat Nordick, co-chairman of the Together for Kids committee--which is campaigning for a "yes" vote.

Meanwhile, the "Concerned Citizens for Property Tax Fairness" are planning telephone canvassing, advertising and possibly direct mail pieces to convince voters to vote "no."

Voters will act on the levy referendum Nov. 4, a general election which is expected to garner a large election turnout.

A general meeting with the staff at Perham Memorial Hospital and Home is being scheduled, and meetings are also being planned with the KLN Enterprises staff, which includes the Barrel O' Fun and Tuffy's pet foods companies.

"We're not against the school and the kids, but this is such a large increase--over such a long period of time," said Dave Sethre, Concerned Citizens for Property Tax Fairness. "We hope the facts speak for themselves. Common sense should be enough to convince people on this."

The goal of the Concerned Citizens is to vote the referendum down, and start over from scratch, said Sethre, an Ottertail area investment broker.

Sethre claims that, based on a very informal poll, 90 percent of the people they have talked with had no idea the referendum was coming.

"This has been really hush-hush," said Sethre.

"I'm sure there have been efforts to trim back the costs, but I come back to the fact that the tax increase is exorbitant," said Sethre.

Sethre believes that fixed-income people may be forced to sell their land and homes. "I don't know if some people are going to be able to survive the money they're talking about," he said.

Together for Kids will also be hosting a ribbon-cutting ceremony, opening its campaign headquarters on Oct. 13, starting at 5 p.m.

The headquarters will be at the former Dean's Country Market location.

Phone number at the headquarters is 218-346-KIDS (5437).

The Together for Kids committee, which is campaigning for a "Yes" vote, will be staffing the campaign office daily.

The event will be rain or shine.


Budgets, finances and cuts at Perham-Dent schools

The school claims more than $2 million in reductions since 2004, in an effort to contain costs.

Reductions are expected to continue, at a rate of $500,000 per year--without the levy increase.

----Topping the list is the closing of the elementary school in Dent, which will be implemented in full in 2009-10. This is expected to save nearly $350,000. However, the school will still be open and operating as an Alternative Learning Center and possible daycare facility, so there will be some operational and maintenance costs.

-----Included in the more than $500,000 cuts last year were one complete bus route; art and band programs; $70,000 in secretarial and para-professional staff; nearly $100,000 in custodial staff; elimination of Dean of Students position, for $80,000; and more than $30,000 reduction in classroom teaching.

----Inadequate school funding by the state, increased costs of operating, and declining enrollment are all factors in the budget cuts and proposed levy increase. Enrollment, which is tied to per pupil state aid, is expected to fall from a recent high of 1,574 to 1,336 by 2011-12.

----Wages and salaries are the largest share of the school systems $15.3 million budget -- at about 75 percent. The average teacher salary is about $50,524.

----Though largely a symbolic gesture, the Perham School Board cut its pay, basically in half.

----Special education has been one of the biggest strains on the Perham-Dent school budget. State reimbursement for special ed was 76 to 88 percent of what schools budgeted for the past two years.