Orono Technology Levy Fails to Pass

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Freya Clifford

Students in a classroom complete work on their laptops.

The Orono technology levy referendum was barely rejected early this month with an against vote of 50.33 percent to a for vote of 49.67 percent, according to Hometownsource. The proposed levy would have resulted in an extra $1 million for the Orono school district’s technology enterprise. Funding for the schools technology referendum will be depleted at the end of the 2021 tax season.

The state of Minnesota does not provide money to the schools, forcing the district to ask the community to provide assistance in ensuring that the schools have proper technology to create success for their students.

Having high efficient technology is imperative to schools, especially with the current circumstances. There are many students working fully online as well as having hybrid learning which requires teachers to livestream their classes. Many teachers and students have had troubles with the Wifi as well as the technology provided. The technology levy would ensure that we have high-speed and secure software and devices to be used in school.

“With teachers having more up to date technology, it helps them better reach out to students without having to worry about technology issues. Another reason it is important is that it helps the students as well because with better technology, the teachers have access to creating a more interactive learning environment and are able to help each individual student succeed,“ junior Lindsey Allar said.

Technology is very important for teachers as they rely on it for the majority of their work for submissions, lesson plans, and teaching in and out of the classroom. It is important that these teachers have access to efficient software in order for them to teach the current and future generations of Orono students.

“It only affects me with being able to upgrade our hardware. We all have desktop computers and laptops. As time moves on, these need to be upgraded. Otherwise, we waste time waiting for things to load/connect. As a teacher, things happen quickly in the classroom. Downtime that is created by waiting for something to load is always rough and we can lose the attention of the students,” science teacher Andy Kahler said.

The results of the referendum will also have effects on the district’s taxes. If it was approved, it would raise the monthly taxes based off of your property value starting the 2021 year, according to Oronotech. Although it would raise taxes, creating a better learning environment would result in an increase of families moving to the district, creating a rise in estimated market value.

As of the current technology levy which was approved by voters in 2011, Orono currently has the lowest annual spending per student within the surrounding districts. The total annual levy for the Orono school district is set at $1,039,860, Orono having $325 per student annually while Hopkins being the highest in the neighboring districts is at a staggering $1,416 per student, according to Oronotech. The acceptance of the 2020 referendum would have brought Orono up to 5th behind Edina, with Orono spending $664 per student annually.

“With having a 7th grader enrolled in the Orono school district, I think that it is a must, given the current environment that we are in. It is important that Orono schools have the tools to maintain the standards that they are accustomed to with being one of the best schools in the state even if that means having higher monthly tax rates,” Orono homeowner Robert Knight said.

According to Hometown, in result of the levy request being denied, funding for the district’s technology will have to be pulled from additional funds. This worries some people because this means making budget cuts in other areas where they may not be supported by all.

“Of course, we are disappointed that the technology renewal was unsuccessful, but will continue our work in achieving the excellent results this community has come to expect. Our hard-working staff and students are recognized for their excellence. The technology improvements we asked the community to support — because the state does not — are necessary to ensure future success for every learner,” Superintendent Karen Orcutt said in the Lakeshore News.

With hard work and having a positive attitude on the outlook of the technology levy’s results, Orono schools will continue to create success in the classroom.