Anti-referendum group member sounds off on RPS tax levy going forward

Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 6:54 PM CST
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – ‘Say No To The Taxman’ member, John Whelan, said Rochester Public Schools needs to refocus its spending priorities after its November 7 referendum failed.

‘Say No To The Taxman’ is a group formed in opposition of taxes including RPS’s levy question.

If approved, the school referendum would have raised property taxes to fund the school district about $10 million annually for a decade. The school system said these funds would have been used for technology to improve cybersecurity and software/hardware upgrades for teaching.

RPS said the money would have allowed it to invest more in salaries and benefits for teachers and staff. Whelan said the main focus of the bond should be on raising the quality of academics — which he said is behind.

“We are slightly above 50-percent on reading of our kids reading at grade level,” he said. “That is terrible. But math and science is even worse, so the money needs to be spent where it does the most good, and that’s with academics.”

Whelan said people are suffering financially due to inflation and believed property owners would have increased expenses if the RPS referendum were to have passed.

He said he wants what is best for the schools and its students.

“I am not against the public schools. I’m a graduate of the public schools. I was born in Rochester and graduated from John Marshall 51 years ago. I coached tennis at Century High School for nine years. I love kids; I love the schools; I want them to be better.”

'Say No To The Taxman' Committee Member John Whelan

Whelan said the school district should develop a different approach from what the recent referendum offered.

He said, “It’s not how much money there is. It’s how the money is spent and the money needs to be spent on basic academic proficiency, which we are lacking sorely.”