In recent articles, I have written that the recent legislative session provided our school district with some financial wins and losses. All in all, the session helped, but did not solve, our funding challenges.
However, the good news is what all of this means for district taxpayers. As we’ve worked with state leaders to understand the complexities of the new education laws, we’ve discovered how our district benefits from some new funding tools. These new tools, one of which comes with more than $600,000 per year in state aid, will actually reduce the financial impact of a levy on local property taxpayers. For a median priced home of $250,000, this could mean a reduction from our original proposal of more than $18 per year.
The result of these new funding tools, coupled with the small funding increase provided by the state, means we can ask for less money at a lower cost to our taxpayers and still meet our students’ needs. Because of this, I believe there has never been a better time, with help from state aid, to invest in our schools. I see this as great news as a resident, parent and taxpayer of this community.
With these changes our levy proposal remains unchanged. We will still ask our community to consider a renewal and increase of our existing levy to address three key issues.
First, the levy renewal would provide financial stability, support current programs and avoid more budget cuts. Second, it would support Our Bridge to Excellence Plan to recreate how students learn and better prepare them for the future. Third, it provides increased school safety and security by adding secured school entrances and quick response systems and expanding anti-bullying and mental health initiatives.
What will change, as a result of new state laws, is how our ballot looks this fall.
The new funding formulas count actual students, or those enrolled in our schools, instead of resident students who live in our district, regardless of where they attend school. This means our total funding request is divided between fewer students, resulting in a reported higher per-pupil levy amount than we originally proposed. This does not impact the amount of money we are asking for or collect — this amount remains the same — just how it is broken down on a per-student basis. We can no longer compare our existing levy amount to a new levy amount. It would be like comparing apples to oranges.
Since making a decision in April to place a levy renewal question on the November ballot, our school board has been engaged in deep and thoughtful conversations about what that request will look like. They’ve surveyed residents, poured over financial analysis and engaged in countless conversations with community members. They’ve considered the many tools available to them and discussed at length which options make the most sense for taxpayers. On Aug. 8 they will make a final decision on the ballot language. At that time we will be able to share specific tax impact information with residents. Additional details about how levy dollars would be invested are available online, www.stillwaterschools.org.
We are working hard to have a successful start of the school year. Sorry kids, Sept. 3 is just around the corner.
Superintendent Corey Lunn can be contacted via email at [email protected] or by phone at 651-351-8301. Questions can also be sent by mail to Superintendent, Stillwater Area Public Schools, 1875 South Greeley Street, Stillwater, MN 55082. Register for Stillwater Area Public Schools E-News at www.stillwater.k12.mn.us/subscribe.