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Ellsworth Supt. Column: Feedback needed in community survey

The District is again working with the Morris-Leatherman Company to provide a community-based survey to be delivered to residents. The survey is to be conducted starting the week of Nov. 13 and will be completed prior to the Thanksgiving holiday.

The survey is very similar to surveys conducted by the district in 2014 and 2015. The survey to be conducted is a scientific-based telephone survey. The Morris Leatherman Company will be calling a number of residents to compile the information needed to provide for a database that represents the District as a whole.

The District is currently in the final year of the three year operational referendum that allows the District to exceed the state imposed revenue limits by $1.3 million per year. This survey will provide valuable information regarding the public's perception of the District's current operations, tax tolerance, level of support for referendum models, and preferred means of communication. This survey is a valuable tool for the district to get feedback from the public that reflects the area as a whole.

This year's referendum comes at a time in which the District's residents will see a levy decrease. At the Special School Board Meeting on Oct. 25, the Ellsworth Community School District approved this year's tax levy for school district operations. This levy includes a $358,296 dollar decrease ($9,716,975) (-3.96 percent) in the local levy and a mill rate drop of $83 per $100,000 in home value (10.73)(-7.74 percent).

The levy drop for this year was an anticipated drop and was part of the facility referendum modeling in 2015-2016 in which it was stated that the largest tax increase would be in the first year of approval of the new building. The biggest factor in this year's levy decrease is the retirement of the debt for the building of the middle school and remodeling of the senior high school completed in 2000. This lowered the debt payment portion of the levy. The mill rate was affected by the levy decrease and the increasing property values that the district has continued to see over the past number of years. With the lower levy this year and the increased property values, the district actually has a lower mill rate than in the 2015-2016 school year prior to the approval of the new elementary school.

As the district moves forward, we still face the same state revenue cap issues that we have faced for a number of years and an Operational Referendum that expires at the end of this school year. This approved referendum was for $1.3 million per year for three years through the 2017-2018 school year. As planned and communicated throughout the building referendum, the district will have another Operational Referendum come to the district residents this coming April. It is important to remember that the dollars from the elementary school referendum can only be used to build and equip that facility. The funds cannot be used for the everyday operations of the school district. Current modeling shows that the district will be able to come back to the voters for less than the current $1.3 million per year. Much more information will be coming about this process in the near future.