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Patch Blog: Why School Levies Are Critical

The school district is putting three levy/referendum measures on the ballot this fall:

· Capital Project Levy (Technology Levy)

· Bond Referendum (Bond for Buildings)

· Referendum Revenue Authorization (Levy for Learning)

Some may question why the school district is asking for “all this money” in a single election.  However, passing of all three measures is essential to the financial health of our district and to the continuation of its high quality programming.

Here is a summary of why each measure is important.

The school district already has a Technology Levy in effect that is due to expire next year.  This ballot measure would revoke the existing levy and replace it with a new one with only a modest increase in the yearly amount.  So only a small portion of the levy is “new” money.  If this measure fails and the current Technology Levy expires next year, most of the initiatives to provide individualized learning environments for students using modern technology would need to be discontinued, and many of the existing technology support personnel would need to be laid off.

Approximately half of the Bond for Buildings is for deferred maintenance projects at all school district sites and facilities.  This amount is consistent with what the district has periodically asked for in bonding measures for maintenance projects.

The other half of the Bond for Buildings is for additions at three elementary schools.  Extra classrooms are needed both to handle unexpected increased enrollment in the district and to also allow space for all-day Kindergarten that will offered district-wide starting in fall 2014, for which the state of Minnesota recently made funding available.  This is perhaps the most controversial part of the measures because Cedar Manor Elementary was recently closed and many people ask “we just closed a school, why don’t we just reopen it?”  Having another school, though, would increase the yearly operating budget immensely, because you need extra staff positions:  principal, secretary, nurse, custodian, lunch staff, etc.  Adding on to the current elementary schools is a one-time capital cost and is the more fiscally responsible option.

 Finally, if the Levy for Learning passes, there will be a small increase in what is most frequently thought of as the “Referendum” money.  Because of adjustments in the formula made by the legislature this last session, St. Louis Park is now slightly under the maximum allowable cap.  This is the only measure that provides money for the operating expenses of the school district.  The other measures are for capital expenses.  Extra operating revenue is critical for the school district to maintain and expand upon its high quality programming.  However, without this revenue, the school district would need to continue to draw down its reserve balance as it is currently doing.  Painful reductions in programming would need to be made in the upcoming years, and larger class sizes would be likely.

The tax impact for the owner of a $200,000 home would be about $82 per year if all three measures pass.  However, this amount will be reduced by approximately $18 due to refinancing some existing bonds creating a net increase of $64 per year.

Useful links:

St. Louis Park School District

Note that the school district is prohibited by law to advocate for the measures.  They can only present facts.

Vote Yes Committee

This is run by an independent group of citizens not employed by the school district.

Patch Article

If you have questions, you can contact the school district, any current school board member, post to the Facebook page mentioned above, or contact me.

Committee to Elect Jim Beneke
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