With less than a month to go before the Nov. 2 election, Kingsland officials are busy getting the word out on the operating levy referendum that will be on the ballot.

Kingsland Superintendent John McDonald said they are scheduling as many presentations as possible with any group they know of that has at least two members - even informal coffee shop gatherings. Public informational meetings are also set for Monday, Oct. 18, 6:30 p.m., at Kingsland High School in Spring Valley and Tuesday, Oct. 19, 7 p.m., at Kingsland Middle School in Wykoff.

"We won't tell voters how to vote. That's a personal choice," said McDonald. "We want them to vote. We want them to have all the facts and figures so they can make an informed vote."

An uniformed voter may show up to the polls on Nov. 2 and see the ballot question - "The Board of Independent School District No. 2137, Kingsland, has proposed to revoke its existing referendum revenue authorization of $300.38 per pupil and replace that authorization with a new authorization of $700 per pupil" - and figure this means a large tax increase.

However, for a resident with a house valued at $100,000, the overall increase in school taxes will be about the same price as a gallon of milk per month. Commercial property owners will see even less of an increase and agricultural property owners will see decreases.

The reason for this is due to a decrease in the health and safety levy, one of the few levies the local district, rather than the state, has control over. Kingsland plans to lower that levy, which was being used to pay for some of the costs from the recent school building project.

So, for example, on that $100,000 house, the rise in the operating referendum levy would increase taxes $83.25 per year, but the decrease in the health and safety levy would lower the bill $40.74, resulting in a net increase in the overall school levy of $42.51, or $3.54 per month.

The tax impact on commercial and industrial property would range from a net increase of $21 to $31.50 annually for properties ranging in value from $100,000 to $500,000.

Homestead agricultural land ranging from 80 to 640 acres would see decreases from $15.50 per year to $701.16 per year with the new operating levy referendum combined with the decrease in the health and safety levy. Non-homestead agricultural land of the same acreage would see even larger decreases, ranging from $117.51 per year to $961.01.

The reason for the substantial decreases in ag property is because operating levies apply only to the value of the house, garage and one acre of surrounding ag land. Building bonds, such as the recent one for the new school, tax all agricultural land.

The reason the district is asking for an increase in the operating referendum levy is because state funding has been flat over the past several years with yearly increases of 1.37 percent over the past nine years. Two years ago, state aid was cut and this year it is frozen. At the same time, the state has used accounting shifts to help its cash flow problems, which means that promised funding was postponed to the following fiscal year.

Even with the current operating levy in place, the Kingsland district has had to cut approximately $448,000 from its budget over the past two years, explained McDonald.

If the new referendum passes, the district would use the additional funds to preserve student programs, particularly appropriate class sizes, and provide educational enhancements, such as all day every day kindergarten and training that can, for example, provide college credit courses within the school.

The $700 per pupil operating referendum levy will maximize state aid to Kingsland under the state funding laws. The state pays 30.4 percent of referendum levies up to $700. Anything over $700 is paid for entirely by the district.

McDonald said he is new to the district, but he has 35 years of experience in education and feels his job is to help provide the best education possible for the children in the district. The goal is to prepare every student for postsecondary success, he said. That doesn't mean only college, as students may transition to trades, the military, farming or other areas after high school.

The district has been providing a positive experience for students, noted McDonald, as shown by the quality of the Wall of Honor nominations from successful adults who were taught the skills and gained a good foundation in the local district.

The new operating levy referendum is proposed for the next nine years. The current levy is due to expire in 2012.

The Tribune will look at the proposal in more detail over the next three issues prior to the election, with separate articles explaining the operating levy, analyzing school finances and showing the specific impact on taxpayers.