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He's a teacher and longtime supporter of schools--but he says 'no' to levy hike

It is a dilemma for him, but retired teacher Roger Vettleson will be voting 'no' on the levy referendum for the Perham-Dent schools.

For Vettleson, who taught in the Moorhead school system and retired to the Perham area, his property taxes will rise $800 a year if the levy passes--this on top of several years of $700-$800 increases due to rising property values.

"I'm paying more in property taxes than I am in federal income taxes," said Vettleson.

While the "vote yes" group portrays the levy, which could raise about $950,000 a year, as costing .35 to .75 cents per day, for retired lakeshore homeowners it translates into hundreds of dollars a year--pure and simple.

Vettleson experienced similar school trauma--from the other side of the table--during the 1970's-80's declining enrollment in Moorhead. He was terminated after 17 years.

That experience has given him some perspective on Perham's situation.

"What I see here, is that they kept a school open in Dent long beyond when it should have stayed open," said Vettleson.

He also believes the administration didn't give serious consideration to the concept of four-day school week.

"There would absolutely be savings in a four-day week," he said. "And research shows that a four-day week is not a negative."

When he was teaching high school, cutbacks forced class sizes form 24 to 30. "I thought it would be a negative, but it didn't turn out that way," said Vettleson. "Now, if it had been increased to 40, that would be another story."

He is also critical of the current, competitive environment, with schools luring students from other schools. Rather than investing energy in competing with New York Mills and Frazee, for example, there should be more emphasis on sharing and pairing with neighboring districts.

"Instead, we're trying to entice kids to go from one school to another."

Finally, Vettleson echoes a common concern from both sides of the levy referendum debate: The state needs to share more of the burden.

"When you rely on property taxes, it is not a fair way to fund education. Property taxes do not relate to a person's income," said Vettleson. "It would be so much better if the legislature would fund more through income taxes."