Levy request goes to the voters on Nov. 5

In 10 days, on Tuesday, Nov. 5, Independent School District 834’s levy request will be in the hands of voters.

Only one question will appear on the ballot. Here’s what voters will see:

“The board of Independent School District No. 834 (Stillwater Area Public Schools) Minnesota has proposed to increase its voter approved general education revenue to $1,536.47, subject to an annual increase at the rate of inflation. The proposed referendum revenue authorization would be applicable for eight (8) years unless otherwise revoked or reduced as provided by law.”

The district is asking for a renewal of its expiring $11 million-per-year levy that was implemented in 2007, plus an increase of $5.2 million per year, for a total $16.2 million annually. A “yes” vote would make the levy valid for eight years.

If passed, this levy would provide funding of $1,536.47 per pupil and would result in a tax increase of $168 a year on a $250,000 home, or $14 a month more than currently paid.

The levy would fund a 5 percent increase in the overall district budget, which hasn’t been raised in the past 10 years.

The $16.2 million total also includes a school board authorized levy at $300 per pupil for up to five years which will generate $2.73 million a year and includes $617,900 in state aid. This portion of the levy does not require voter approval.
The levy passage would allow the district to do the following three things: maintain current programs, fund the new Bridge to Excellence plan and improve school safety and security.

At a final levy meeting on Tuesday night, district officials said the breakdown of where the money will go is:

• 82 percent ($13.3 million) will go toward maintaining the district’s current programs.
• 15 percent ($2.43 million) will fund the Bridge to Excellence program.
• 3 percent of the levy ($486,000) total will go toward improving safety and security.

Passage of the levy would also help cover inflation costs and the $4-6 million budget shortfalls that occur each year due to government-mandated programs that don’t get financial support. The district has already had to cut $6 million to keep up with these needs.

“I’m new to the board,” school board member Amy Burback said, “I’ve watched the cuts happen, and I was unwilling to pass a levy just to come back and cut more things. My conscience wouldn’t let me to ask for anything less than what we needed.”

Approval of the levy would allow the district to implement elementary world language programs, elementary art and design classes and updated curriculum. Safety and security enhancements would include construction on some buildings in the district to make sure there is controlled access to the buildings, anti-bullying programs and expanded student mental health instruction for students and training of teachers.

If the levy fails, the school board will implement an previously approved list of 105 specific budget cuts totaling $10.1 million. The original cut list included $11 million, but with the state legislature’s support of all-day kindergarten funding in the last session, the amount decreased.

If the levy doesn’t pass and the board needs to make cuts, music teachers at the high school level have come before the board to ask them to maintain the fifth- and sixth grade-music programs, because teachers say they are the roots of the department.

Items included on the cut list are raising class sizes by reducing up to 50 teachers, implementing a four-day school week, restructuring or closing an elementary school and more.

To find your polling place for election day go to pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us.

Contact Avery Cropp at avery.cropp@ecm-inc.com

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