The Lake Superior School Board is considering pursuing a voter-approved operating levy to be included on this November's ballot.

The amount under consideration is unknown as the board is in the beginning stages of this perspective process.

At a school board workshop Tuesday, April 30, the board heard from Steve Pumper from PMA Financial, a Twin Cities-based agency that provides school finance guidance, about how an operating levy referendum would work.

"When you go for an operating referendum, it's a pretty simple mathematical equation. Basically, you need to know how many pupil units you have, multiplied by however many dollars you want to ask your voters to authorize per student and that comes up with a gross number," Pumper said.

For example, if the board were to ask for $100 worth of referendum authority per pupil, this levy would generate about $154,00 of revenue per year. When that levy is applied to a house valued at $100,000, the increase would be about $12 per year - about a 5 percent increase.

On the other end of the spectrum, if the board were to ask for $1,000 worth of referendum authority per student, the levy would generate about $1.4 million of annual revenue. When applied to a house valued $100,000, the increase would be about $112 per year - about a 53 percent increase.

"That's something you have to be careful about," Pumper said. "$112 per year doesn't sound too bad, but someone will get their tax statement and see that 53 percent and might be upset."

Operating levies are fairly common around the state according to Pumper. The Lake Superior School Board is one of the few boards that doesn't have a voter-approved operating levy outside of the board-approved levy of $300 per pupil unit. However, there is a capital improvement referendum still in place from when the new Two Harbors High School was built in 2005.

Pumper advised the board that when considering a levy referendum, they must weigh the question of how much the district needs versus how much their voters are willing to approve.

"It seems like a balancing act," board member Al Ringer said.

"That's why we need to connect to our communities and find out what people would be willing to accept," Superintendent William Crandall said. "What amount would people feel comfortable accepting, whether it's somewhere between $100 and $1,000. We hope it'd be somewhere in between those two at least."

If the board pursues a voter-approved operating levy, they would need to decide before the deadline of Aug. 23, when they'd need to inform the state and county auditors.