Opt-out vote set for Corsica

CORSICA -- Voters in the Corsica School District on Tuesday will decide whether to allow the school board to raise $100,000 through an opt-out of the state property tax freeze.

CORSICA -- Voters in the Corsica School District on Tuesday will decide whether to allow the school board to raise $100,000 through an opt-out of the state property tax freeze.

Voting will take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the high school music room, according to Corsica School District Business Manager Merna Bye.

Many schools have been opting out of the state's property tax restrictions in order to raise funds above the state-set levies as their enrollments decrease. The Corsica opt-out, if approved, will be for five years, ending with the taxes payable in 2011.

District residents successfully gathered the required 46 signatures, and then some, to bring the opt-out resolution to a public vote, according to Bruce Beukelman, of Corsica, who helped circulate the petition.

The board stated in its notice to the public that the opt-out is necessary because the state aid formula "does not adequately fund the quality of education expected by the Corsica School District."


If approved, the opt-out will result in a 22 cents-per-thousand tax decrease in agricultural property, a 23 cents-per-thousand tax increase for owner-occupied property and a $1.66-per-thousand tax increase for other/utilities. Businesses would be classified as other/utilities, according to Bye.

The increase for businesses in the district is not disproportionate, Bye said.

"The levies are spread out according to state formula," she said. "The businesses/utilities is at a higher level anyways, so naturally that would get an increase. What we did then to decrease the impact is we decreased the capital outlay levy by $1.02 per-thousand and that's what's offsetting in our ag/owner occupied/utilities and other number."

Bye also said the amount the district is asking for is reasonable, considering the increasing costs facing the school.

"I personally feel the $100,000 is a minimal amount with fuel prices and insurance going up," Bye said.

Bye added that the school has "unfunded mandates" from the federal government, such as the No Child Left Behind Act, and the possibility of adding additional programs to our curriculum. The district would like to have industrial technology, Bye said.

Neighboring Armour School District opted-out for $275,000 this year, but that resolution was not petitioned to a public vote.

The Corsica School Board decided to opt out after predictions for student enrollment in the fall dropped, Bye said.


"We're going to be looking at a drop of approximately 15 students, but that's an estimation," she said. "We've been graduating decent figures and we have single numbers coming in."

The school served 177 students during the 2005-06 school year.

Manley Peterson, a banker in Corsica since 1991, says he supports the opt-out because of the value the school has had for his family and the entire community.

"I guess the main reason I'm behind it is in support of our school and support of the community," he said. "I certainly realize that communities have huge challenges when we don't have a school."

Beukelman said he isn't necessarily against the opt out, despite his involvement in bringing it to a public vote. He said he feels it should not be a decision left solely to the school board, which favors the opt-out.

He cited an example from three years ago, when the school wanted to add an addition, but the project was brought to a public vote and rejected. Beukelman said the school went ahead and used capital outlay funding to pay for the project without public approval, leaving a sour taste in some peoples' mouths.

"That's the main reason we thought we'd give the people another chance to vote on it," he said.

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