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Board OKs two ballot questions
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MONROE - The Monroe school board voted unanimously Monday to put two referendum questions on the ballot in November.

The first question asks voters to allow the school district to exceed its revenue limit by $1.5 million per year for three years for the purpose of "maintaining educational services and programming." If approved, the district would be able to levy $1.5 million more each year than it would otherwise in school-related property taxes through the 2018-19 school year. If it fails, the district would have to cut as many as 28 teaching positions, according to estimates by Business Administrator Ron Olson.

The second question asks for the ability to exceed the revenue limit by $460,000 per year for three years for "purposes consisting of safety, security, communications and maintenance expenses."

If both questions pass in the election, the district will be able to levy a total of $1.96 million above its limit per year of the referendums.

School board members have been debating the topic - namely, how much money to ask for - since last year. Olson estimated the district would need $1.8 million per year to maintain current school programming and services, but with a survey showing voter support lacking for a $1.8 million referendum, board members reached a compromise in July. They agreed to ask for $1.5 million as long as the district operates through deficit spending rather than cutting.

"Knowing what we know right now, it is not our intent to make any cuts across the three years of this referendum," said Bob Erb, board president. "That doesn't mean that there'll never be any cuts, but based on what we know right now, that's not what we're planning."

He noted that significant changes to school funding on the state level could change their plans.

Olson said the district will still make cuts "when it makes sense," such as when a teacher retires and there's no need to refill the position.

Both ballot questions are for non-recurring referendums.

The board took roll-call votes to approve the resolutions that set what will be on the ballot. Members Les Bieneman and Jim Plourde were absent.

"Now the work really begins just to communicate throughout the community and with all of our stakeholders" why a referendum is needed, Erb said.