$10M Rochester School Technology Levy Could Be on November Ballot
Rochester, MN (KROC-AM News) - The Rochester School Board is being asked to seek voter approval for a $10 million annual levy for technology upgrades in the local public school system.
Superintendent Kent Pekel will present his recommendations at this evening's regular School Board meeting. He is calling for a special election in early November on a referendum calling for voter authorization for the tax increase, which would remain in effect for 10 years. Documentation supplied to the School board estimates the technology levy would increase the annual property tax payment for the owner of a $325,000 home by about $135.
The superintendent's recommendation lists 10 key priorities that would be supported by funding from the levy if voters approve. At the top of the list are software and hardware to enhance school safety which would include cameras and the use of artificial intelligence to monitor schools for weapons. The second highest priority item would be the purchase of computer hardware to maintain and improve the district's technology infrastructure, particularly cyber security to prevent future cyber attacks.
The purchase of personal computers and tablets for students and staff is also high on the list of priorities. Pekel says the funding would allow the district to maintain the 1-to-1 device ratio for students that was achieved in 2019 due to federal COVID funding. The new levy would also allow the school district to avoid the previous practice of providing teachers with 3-year-old "hand me down" devices that were previously used by students.
The Superintendent is recommending the School Board hold off on dealing with whether to extend or expand the school district’s existing $17 million operating levy until after the vote on the proposed technology levy. He says the state legislature has given school districts the option of extending existing operating levies for another 10 years without voter approval, but any increase in the levy would require a referendum. That decision would have to be made before the middle of June next year.