For the past several months, Eastern Carver County Schools has been looking at ways to manage growing enrollment, aging buildings, budget pressures and academic needs. Staff have reviewed the hard work of the Facility Task Force, used community surveys and listening sessions to gather public input, and analyzed budget projections.
All these pieces came together at the May 6 School Board work session. DeeDee Kahring, Director of Finance and Operations, presented some options for Board members to consider to support the district’s commitment to exceptional, personalized learning, including:
- An increase to the district’s operating levy of either $450 per student or $550 per student. The first option would provide approximately $4.6 million per year to fund school staff and operations and the second approximately $5.7 million per year. Both options provide funding to bridge the funding gap and to operate a new elementary school and larger bus garage.
- A $111,675,000 bond request to build a new elementary school, address deferred maintenance needs across the district, and build a larger bus garage.
- A renewal of the district’s security and technology (capital projects) levy. This levy is used to fund school security updates, infrastructure for school security and technology systems, staff to support district technology initiatives, and improvements to technology teaching tools as they are available. Because this is a renewal it would not increase taxes if approved by voters.
A missing piece of the puzzle is how much funding schools will receive from the state. The legislative session is scheduled to end on May 20, but the House, Senate and Governor have very different proposals for how to meet schools’ funding needs across the state and there is no guarantee the session will end on time.
“Funding schools is a shared partnership between the federal and state governments and local communities,” said Kahring. “One of the ways communities support their students and schools is by approving referendum requests. We are providing background to help the School Board determine what request it feels prepared to make of our residents this fall.”
The School Board will hear another update at its May 20 meeting, with a final decision expected in late June about details for a November 2019 referendum. Learn more about the district’s enrollment growth and school funding needs HERE.
Enrollment Growth and Funding Needs — Key Facts:
- The school district will need to cut $10 million from its operating budget and draw $6.5 million from its fund balance over the next four years to develop a balanced budget. This is on top of nearly $10 million in cuts during the past decade.
- State funding has not kept pace with inflation or increasing costs for more than 15 years, and the district has never been fully reimbursed for required special education services.
- Eastern Carver County Schools is projected to grow by 1,400 students in the next five years.
- The median age of district schools is 34 years. Much like a home, as school buildings age, their maintenance needs increase.
- The district uses more than 100 buses to safely transport kids from home to school and back again, but the current bus garage only holds 50 – leaving half the buses outside in all weather conditions which can lead to higher maintenance costs.
- Funding from the district’s security and technology levy have supported secure school entrances, networks and technology infrastructure, and devices for both students and staff.