Rochester, MN (KROC-AM News) - The Rochester School Board received a key recommendation from the public school system's Superintendent this afternoon.

The elected officials held a study session to discuss plans for a school operating levy this fall and Superintendent Kent Pekel recommended seeking voter approval for a $19.4 million dollar property tax increase to support local school operations starting in the 2025-2026 school year and remaining in effect for 10 years. He says that would boost the school district's per-pupil funding by $1133 per year while adding around $30 per month to the average property tax bill on homes valued at about $350,000 to $400,000. The superintendent's recommendations also include a provision that would allow the operating levy to rise at the rate of inflation.

READ MORE: Superintendent Pekel's Operating Levy Proposal

The Rochester School District's current operating levy, which was approved by voters nine years ago and recently extended for another 10 years spotted the school board under special authority granted by the state legislature, adds about $943 annually to the per-pupil funding rate. Pekel says that is the lowest in the state for school district's with more than 10,000 students>

Rochester Public Schools
Rochester Public Schools

Pekel warned that without the nearly $20 million property tax increase, the Rochester Public Schools would have to make drastic cuts, which would likely include school closings, eliminating staff positions, and reducing critical supports for students. His presentation also says the school district would also be forced to "reduce or eliminate many of the special programs that make our district unique."

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On the flipside, his recommendation includes a list of programs and positions that would be funded by the additional revenues generated by the proposed operating levy.
The list includes $5.4 million for school counselors, and nearly $3 million for industrial technology and other career or technical education classes, almost $1.5 million for advanced learning positions and services(formally known as gifted and talented), and nearly $1.4 million for the CTECH career and technical education program.

Rochester Public Schools
Rochester Public Schools

The School Board's study session today included a review a of a recent survey of voters in the Rochester School District concerning a possible operating levy referendum. The School Board is expected to vote on the superintendent's recommendation at its next regular meeting on May 21st.

READ MORE: Rochester School Board Set to Receive Property Tax Hike Proposal

READ MORE: Rochester Sales Tax Extension Approved-School District Levy Fails

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