The cost of education

Education: the success of the past relied on it, the present requires it and the future will need more of it. It is widely acknowledged that the gift of education is a vital piece of our lives. Unfortunately, education comes with a price. And with a new proposed Levy from the Owatonna School Board, that price may be going up. The Owatonna Public School District Board of Education approved a special referendum to hold an election on Tuesday, November 5, 2013. So what exactly does this mean?

If voters approve this levy request and agree to pay the tax increase, the school district will receive funding for seven years which will provide financial stability for its educational programs. If voters reject the levy, the school board will create a list of areas to cut expenses. These areas may include increased class sizes, limited offerings in areas such as math, science, technology and music, lowered credit requirements for graduation and reduced number of teachers and support staff; however, taxes will remain untouched by the school board. Superintendent Mr. Grant said, “There is a strong relationship between a healthy community and a healthy school- you can’t have one without the other.” This levy walks that fine line. If the school district can keep jobs and maintain a high level of educational opportunities, all involved may be happy. But if community members have to pay higher taxes, they may not be happy.

Every organization, business or committee that hopes to flourish has at least one thing in common: they must maintain a budget. As a top priority, Grant said, “We are committed to keeping a balanced budget.” The school board will be charged with reducing the operating budget by $5.3 million over the next three years, unless the levy is passed. But if the new operating levy is approved, the tax increase on the typical district home or rural homestead building site with one acre would be $5.74 per month or $68.84 per year.

The question comes down to this: “What’s a quality education? This issue is difficult because opinions differ.” Grant admitted that we all may not see eye to eye on exactly how much an education is worth; though he added “The goal is to provide 1,000 students the best opportunities we can while they’re in our schools.” The School District hopes to make the voting simple.  According to the District Website: “There will be one question on the ballot that will ask to revoke the existing referendum revenue authorization of $531.59 per pupil, and approve a new authorization of $870.61 per pupil.”

Federated is in strong support of the levy. Mrs. Rethemeier, a Federated employee and the head of the Invest in Tomorrow Committee said, “From the business perspective, they recruit new employees who they want to live in Owatonna. We need to keep Owatonna strong to keep this town [Federated’s] home base. Some people move here and decide to stay but some decide to leave.” She thinks the levy is important not only to our community, but to our schools. “[Passing the levy] would show a commitment to our schools.” She concluded.

As citizens of the United States and as members of the Owatonna school District, we have the right to vote, but also the civic duty. Be sure to exercise this right and make heard your voice on Nov. 5.


Absent on Voting Day?

Not a problem! Absentee voting is a simple and fast way to cast your ballot late. Absentee voting will be open September 20, 2013-November 4, 2013. Ballots will be available at the district office beginning on September 20.  You can also print of a copy of the ballot online at where you will find instructions for emailing or mailing them in.

Congratulations on your right to vote!

Not registered? Don’t sweat it. Bring an ID such as a driver’s license, student ID, birth certificate, passport, utility bill (due within 30 days of November 5) or a rent statement (dated within 30 days of November 5) and register as you vote! You must be 18 years or older to qualify.