Autumn officially starts today and the attention of many Brainerd School District residents is already focusing in on November's $5.75 million operating levy referendum.

This newspaper has editorialized in favor of the measure because despite the school district's best efforts it's faced with an imminent financial crisis - one that will require severe cuts that will damage the education our children receive.

Reasonable people disagree on this issue and it's our aim to give both critics and supporters of the referendum a chance to voice their opinions. No one in particular asked us but we'll offer these words of advice to school district voters: Do a little homework before you cast your ballot.

The Dispatch has published numerous news reports on the operating levy referendum and many more will follow. Read the stories. Ask questions of school board officials. Listen to the critics of the referendum. Check the facts. Consider the big picture in a state where 100 school districts are asking for increased taxpayer support.

Knee-jerk voting doesn't serve any of us. There are ample opportunities to learn more about the referendum. Superintendent Jerry Walseth will answer reader-submitted questions in the online forums from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday. Participants in that forum may submit questions without identifying themselves. Marv Begin, a critic of the referendum, will conduct a meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Brainerd Public Library. Attend the 4 to 5:30 p.m. Oct. 1 forum on the Brainerd and Crosby-Ironton school referendums at Central Lakes College. It is sponsored by the Gordon Rosenmeier Center for State and Local Government.

Don't blindly accept myths such as the often cited criticism that the decision to build Forestview Middle School led to the district's financial woes. Forestview was funded with bond money which cannot be used for operating expenses. Don't fool yourself into thinking that the talk of drastic school cuts that would follow a failed referendum is just an empty threat. The Brainerd School District's crisis is real and all voters who care about the future of education here should make it a point to educate themselves on the issues and vote on Nov. 6.