Rochester, MN (KROC-AM News) - A week after approving a 10 year extension of an existing $17 million operating levy, the Rochester School Board meets Tuesday in a special study session to begin the process of seeking voter approval for a property tax increase later this year.

Rochester Public Schools Superintendent Kent Pekel says he will be proposing a framework for a referendum that would be held in either August or November. He says it will include options for how large of a tax increase to request and whether it should be an operating levy that would direct the revenues directly into the school district's general fund or another request for a technology or other capital project levy.

Rochester School District
Rochester School District
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The Superintendent says the additional funding is needed to avoid what could be a $20 million budget deficit for the 2025-2026 school year. Pekel says erasing that size of a deficit would require very painful spending reductions that could require layoffs affecting as many as a 200 district employees.

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Pekel says the school district recently commissioned a survey to gauge the public's support for a tax increase benefiting the public schools in the wake of last fall's unsuccessful referendum on a $10 million technology levy. It was defeated by a margin of just over 300 votes.

READ MORE: Rochester Schools Superintendent Responds to Rejection of Levy

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The survey respondents overwhelmingly preferred holding a referendum in November to coincide with the presidential election rather than on the other special election in August. Pekel says the results also provided some insights concerning the rather complex ballot question used in last fall's referendum and the informational campaign that was conducted by the school district leading up to the vote.

Pekel anticipates several additional study sessions on the issue before the School Board takes a vote on his recommendation in early May.

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Gallery Credit: Lauren Wells