Rochester Public Schools superintendent discusses upcoming referendum vote

Published: Oct. 4, 2023 at 5:30 PM CDT
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – With a November special election a little over one month away, KTTC chatted with Rochester Public Schools superintendent about the proposed RPS technology referendum.

According to the RPS school board, the money would go toward improving cyber security, school safety inside and outside, learning software and purchasing new devices for teachers.

The proposed levy would be $10.15 million annually for 10 years. According to RPS, that amounts to a cost of about $135/year in taxes for a home that costs $325,000.

RPS Superintendent Kent Pekel said funding for district technology currently stems from 27 different sources.

“There’s not a business that would say we need to fund core operating cost from 27 pots of money that all have different requirements, different expectations,” Pekel said.

Pekel said in the last two years, the district has trimmed about $21 million from the budget. He said if the referendum does not pass, more jobs will be cut because money for technology would need to be pulled from the general fund, which pays for things like salaries.

“It would free up $7 million we’re currently spending on technology now, and we would put right back into keeping class size at its current level,” he said. “So, I understand why people get a little bit confused. Is it for technology? Or is it for class size? It really is for technology, but it frees up funding for class size.”

The levy would also allow for an additional $3 million per year to maximize technology use and support the financial plan.

When asked why people without children in the district or people without children at all should support the measure, Pekel said all residents should value what’s happening in the schools.

“We know from a lot of data, that first of all, their property values are directly influenced by the quality of education,” he said. “And second- we know a lot of research has conclusively show that money does influence the quality of education kids get.”

For more information on the referendum, click here.