Rochester Public Schools passes $40.7 million preliminary tax le - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Rochester Public Schools passes $40.7 million preliminary tax levy before crucial referendum vote

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -

With Tuesday night's approval of a $40.7 million maximum tax levy, one of Rochester Public Schools administrators' toughest tasks is finally behind them.

"This is just our first step in getting that out," said RPS assistant superintendent Brenda Lewis. "It's good so that our taxpayers can get their initial preliminary notices."

This maximum is about $40,000 less than last year's levy and would still have RPS be $3.8 million over budget if adopted. However, RPS administrators hope that will change on November 3rd with a tax referendum.

"What that would do for our district is bring in $9.6 million of revenue for the '16-'17 school year which would actually cause our district to be able to avoid budget cuts through at least the '19-'20 school year," said Lewis.

The referendum would increase per pupil funding by $572 a year, putting RPS on par with other Minnesota school districts. Administrators aren't the only ones pushing for the vote, as the Alliance for Strong Rochester Public Schools also voiced their opinions at Tuesday's meeting.

"I've watched budget cuts in this district before as a result of failed referendums in the past, and the impact that its had on students has been quite devastating," said ASRPS chair Cathy Nathan.

If the referendum fails, RPS administrators say teachers, electives, and class sizes could be at risk. While the preliminary tax levy was the first step, many at Tuesday's meeting hope voters will finish the last leg.

"It's a vote for the quality of Rochester," said Nathan. "It's a vote for how Rochester is seen in terms of the kind of opportunities it can provide for its citizens, and it really is a vote for Rochester's future."

Rochester Public Schools will hold a public discussion on next year's tax levy on December 1, with a final vote on the tax levy coming a week later.

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