Enrollment and Funding Needs

Frequently Asked Questions

This June the School Board went through the process to decide what financial support it needed from residents and unanimously approved a November 2019 referendum. They approved funding requests to address projected enrollment growth, the budget needed to operate and staff our schools, and the need to renew a capital projects levy for security and technology funding. The funding requests fall into three categories (below). Learn more about our enrollment growth and funding needs.

In Person Information Session

Weds., Oct. 9, 6:00 p.m. at Chaska High School, Auditorium

Reality Check

Administrative Costs

Rumor:  The district’s administrative spending is exorbitant and padded with unnecessary staff.  

Reality: Just over three cents out of every dollar is spent on administrative costs in the district.  While the administrative budget accounts for 3% of our costs, over 30% of our cost containment has come from this category of expenditures.  A district of our size requires staff- 1,432 to be exact – to support both students and the district’s physical infrastructure. Specialists (this is just a job title) are district employees who work in human resources, payroll, accounting, and any number of jobs that support the work of our schools.  Of the 15 districts comparable to ours, we rank 11th in administrative spending per pupil.

 

Rumor: At a recent school board meeting, I heard the district is spending $300/pupil on its equity program.

Reality: A statement made by the district finance director during the levy certification report to the school board on September 23rd was not in reference to the district’s equity program, but rather an explanation of a change at the state level in how funding is allocated.  In 2013, the Minnesota Legislature added an additional component to the general education program called location equity. This change was to level the playing field between metro and regional center districts who had referendums and those who did not.  Those school districts who didn’t could access up to $424 per adjusted pupil unit in board-approved revenue.  In Fiscal Year 2016, the legislature expanded this authority to all districts re titled it local optional revenue (LOR).

The local optional revenue allowance of $424 per pupil unit is subtracted from any existing school district operating referendum (which is the case for Eastern Carver County Schools).  No additional funds are provided to Eastern Carver County Schools, but rather it provides more equalization between state aid and local levy.  In other words, the local tax levies go down while state aid increases.

In addition to the $424 local operating revenue in 2013, the 2019 Minnesota Legislature transferred $300 per adjusted pupil unit from Minnesota school district’s operating referendum to the local optional revenue category.  This transfer will take place in fiscal year 2020-21. The terminology location equity and local optional revenue is interchangeable in school finance terms.

These legislative changes did NOT increase or decrease the amount of funding for the school district. It simply moved funds out of the voter-approved operating referenda to the category of local optional revenue.  The funding is used for operations of the school district and is not a levy set aside for equity purposes.

Just to reiterate, that $300/pupil information reported at the Board meeting was not related at all to Eastern Carver County Schools equity programming or spending, but to state funding categories.

Capacity vs. Enrollment

Rumor: The district is not facing capacity issues and enrollment numbers are inflated.

Reality: Eastern Carver County Schools is experiencing growing enrollment and limited capacity at the elementary level. Our existing middle and high schools currently have enough space and capacity to meet the projected enrollment growth through 2028-29, according to the demographer’s report.

In 2016, before opening Carver Elementary, our district ran its elementary schools over capacity to accommodate enrollment growth – with 4,116 elementary students and space for only 3,465. Opening Carver Elementary in 2017 and additions at two elementary schools eased tight conditions and increased elementary capacity to 4,435 students, but enrollment continues to grow.

The community served by Eastern Carver County Schools is projected to grow 60% by 2040, and in the next five years alone, 1,400 students are expected to enroll in Eastern Carver County Schools.  The majority of that growth will come at the elementary level. We’re already seeing that growth with our biggest kindergarten class in history – almost 800 students. The proposed elementary school as a part of the bond referendum would include capacity for 610 students. Development around the Chaska site is already booming, with lots planned for approximately 2,000 single family homes.

The Facility Task Force recommended this option in part because it would cost significantly less than three building additions and would also be less disruptive to the learning environments. As Eastern Carver County Schools expects continued increases in enrollment, building an elementary school would allow the option to build on additions in the future for additional students.

Rumor: How does the district count the number of students? Explain the difference between your capacity and enrollment numbers. 

Reality: In school districts there are different measures for counting students.
• Enrollment is the number of K-12 students in our building. School Districts must annually report the number of students enrolled on October 1 to the Department of Education.
• Average Daily Membership (ADM) is a calculation of the full time equivalency of the students enrolled.
• Adjusted ADM is a weighting factor times the ADM. (For instance, a high school student is weighted at 1.2 because it is more expensive to educate high school students)
• Preschool students are not counted in the above methodology unless they are enrolled in special education classes.

The number of students enrolled and forecasted dictates the amount of space we need for educating students. ADM and Adjusted ADM are used in the financial calculations for state, federal and local funding. It is the figure used for budgeting and in our Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). While there is a correlation with enrollment, it is NOT enrollment. The state uses ADM because we do not receive state aid for students who graduate early, who come midyear, for students who attend classes outside of our district, etc. Enrollment will always be higher than ADM.

As noted above, preschool students are not included in the enrollment and ADM figures and are not reported to the Minnesota Department of Education unless they are enrolled in a special education program. The district does not receive state aid on preschool programs. However, these programs for our early learners are important because these programs bring student enrollment into our kindergarten program and they are in high demand from our parents.

Similar to enrollment, there are two methods that are used for calculating capacity, building/construction capacity and the program capacity. Construction or building capacity measures the number of classrooms times an average number of students. For instance, an elementary school may have 28 classrooms and an average of 25 students in a classroom, which equates to a 700 student school.

However, not all schools have classrooms used for regular instruction with 25 students. If a school building has special education center based program(s), for instance, they will use classrooms to accommodate these students and the class size is a lot less than 25, typically between 4-12 students. Additionally, schools may have preschool programs in their buildings which also have lower student to teacher ratios. We refer to this as program capacity – the available capacity is based on the programs in the school. Based on the programming request by parents, student needs, and programs offered, the programming capacity can fluctuate.

Since the construction of Carver Elementary and additions at Victoria Elementary and Clover Ridge Elementary, we have added 970 students in building/construction capacity, but less than that in program capacity. Some noteworthy changes in programming; the Kindergarten Center used to house kindergarten classes for Clover Ridge Elementary (CRE) as well as housing the La Academia program. Now that CRE has kindergarten in their building and La Academia has moved to the former Chaska Elementary School, the Kindergarten Center is now the Family Learning Center and is no longer in our count for K-12 program capacity. The Family Learning Center (preschool program) was located in a wing of Chaska HS and moved to the former Kindergarten Center.

There are many other changes that have occurred in our buildings since the building construction at our schools (i.e. preschool programs now take up more “regular” K classrooms, former teacher collaboration areas aren’t used as classrooms, classrooms are used as innovation centers where students rotate in and out but not there the entire day, etc.). View chart for more details. 

Rumor: The district is actually losing students.

Reality: The statistic cited is for open enrollment, and it is true that more students open enroll out to other schools than open enroll into Eastern Carver County Schools. We have approximately 3,070 resident students who select other options – private, parochial, or another public school, and make that choice for a variety of reasons.  We have 410 non-resident students who are enrolled in our district. Net loss for open enrollment is not a new phenomenon for our district; the percentage of students who open enroll outside our district has been consistent over time. Our overall enrollment numbers continue to increase, from 8,658 in the 2008-2009 school year to 9,598 in the 2018-2019 school year.

Rumor: The district closed an elementary school it could be using instead of building a new one.

Reality: While Chaska Elementary School “closed” in the sense that the building no longer has that name, it now houses La Academia, our district’s Spanish immersion elementary school, and Kinder Academy, our program for children with summer birthdays and young five-year-olds.  The old Kindergarten Center on Village Road in Chaska is now our Family Learning Center, which houses our preschool program and Early Childhood Family Education. This building is not equipped to be an elementary school site in terms of size or features.

 

Overall Tax Impact

Rumor: The district is asking for more money in this referendum than they claim.

Reality: Question 1, the operating levy, asks for an increase in per pupil spending by $550/student, and if approved, this funding would be for a 10-year duration.  Question 2, the bond, asks for $111.7M for deferred maintenance, the construction of the new school, and a new, larger bus garage. If approved, the bond would be approved for 20 years.  Question 3, the security and technology levy, is a renewal for another 10 years, so it is not asking for new money and would have no additional tax impact on property owners. Question 3 funds critical security and technology infrastructure, including the systems that protect our schools.  If voters approve the referendum requests, the average homeowner ($350,000 home) would see a tax increase of about $36 per month. Calculate the tax impact you can expect to see on your home.

FACT:  Voters can see that school district property taxes have actually declined over the last six years, even with the 2013 and 2015 voter approved referendas. See Levy Impact Comparison chart here.

Bus Garage

Rumor: I heard a rumor that the new bus garage is being built to support busing students from other districts to ours. I’ve also heard it’s related to the Cruz-Guzman lawsuit. Is that true?

Reality:  No. Both those statements are false. The school district provides busing for resident students and is NOT going to bus students from other districts to justify a new school. The district has significantly outgrown its current garage, which is only half the size needed to properly house and maintain district buses.  The current garage was built for 50 buses and the district uses nearly 100 to transport nearly 10,000 students each day. We are building a new bus garage to make sure that the school district’s buses can be stored inside, to have ample space for mechanical work and to provide training and office space for the transportation staff.  The current garage also needs between $1.5 million and $2 million in repairs.

The referendum request for a larger bus garage would provide the space needed to service and maintain our buses, making bus service more reliable for students — while also reducing costs related to leaving buses outside rather than in a garage.

Unrelated to the bond proposal, earlier this year the School Board approved a district recommendation to bring bus services in-house. By doing so, the district will be able to provide better service to resident families, save money, and take better care of our own assets.  In-sourcing will save the district an estimated $500,000 a year. Every dollar saved on busing goes directly back to the classroom.

Rumor: I heard that the district already bought a new bus garage in Chaska. 

Reality: At its August meeting, the School Board approved entering into a purchase agreement to purchase an existing building in Chaska for a new bus garage; the agreement is contingent on passage of the November 5 referendum.  Beyond benefits for the district and its residents, the move is a win for the broader community.  Carver County has expressed interest in purchasing the old bus garage site for county services and the DMV, and the current DMV location is of interest to the City of Chaska as the site for a future library.

Security & Technology Levy

Rumor: The district is telling us question 3 will cost nothing but they are increasing the original 2013 security and technology levy funding request. How does this not add to our taxes?

Reality: Question 3 is a renewal of an existing security and technology levy.  The district has never claimed question three is “free” – rather, that there will be no additional tax impact associated with question 3 because it is already on property taxes.  Voters approved the security and technology levy in 2013; this levy was approved for six years, but is due to expire and is necessary to maintain critical security and technology systems throughout the district. The 2019 funding request to renew the expiring capital project levy for security and technology proposes a renewal and would be authorized for ten years. The tax rate for this levy will remain at the 2013 rate of 4.947% times the NTC and is not being increased from the prior year’s rate.

As stated on voters’ ballots, these funds will be used for the “acquisition and installation of security, technology, and teaching and learning capital improvements.” More specifically, the proposed authorization will enable the district to continue the work we started in 2013 to:

Maintain, replace/deploy, and expand infrastructure, devices, systems and applications such as:

  • Keyless “smart” doors to secure access to schools
  • Security cameras and surveillance software
  • Secured school entrances, including vestibules and visitor check-in and management software.
  • Cyber security for internet access and online safety including access for parents to monitor students’ use of internet
  • Network services for wireless access and increase internet bandwidth
  • Classroom instruction tools such as collaboration stations and wireless projection
  • Tablets and computing devices (Chromebooks) for learning in grades K-12
  • System infrastructure such as servers, storage and network capacity

Support for students, staff, and parents through:

  • Tech staff to assist students and teachers with technology in the classroom
  • Securly internet monitoring and reporting and teacher support tool to manage devices in the classroom.
  • Training and assistance with cyber security for students and staff
  • Digital subscriptions for flexibility in learning
  • Professional development for teachers

View more details about the district’s 2020-2030 Technology Plan here. 

General

How was this decision to hold a referendum made?
  • Fall 2018  A study of all buildings owned by Eastern Carver County Schools was completed by a set of engineering and construction firms.
  • Oct. 2018  Facility Task Force formed to review facility needs and develop recommendations for the school board.
  • Jan. 2019  Updated demographic study on enrollment growth completed by an outside firm projects exponential growth of district by 1,400, mostly elementary level students, in the next five years.
  • Jan.  Following four months of study, a task force brought a bond referendum recommendation to the school board to fund a new elementary school and larger bus garage, as well as deferred maintenance across the district.
  • Jan. – May  Budget discussions with staff and School Board.
  • Feb. – May  Feedback gathered on all funding needs through community surveys, staff input, School Board discussions and a listening session.
  • May 20  Legislative session ended.
  • Jun. 24  School board approved Nov. 2019 referendum.
  • July-Nov.  Referendum information shared with the community.
  • Sep. 20  Absentee voting begins.
  • Nov. 5, 2019  Election Day
What happens if voters don’t approve an operating levy increase, a bond request and a security/technology levy renewal?
  • Without an operating levy increase, expenses will continue to outpace revenue and we will need to make budget cuts moving forward. A budget cost containment proposal was presented to the School Board in Spring 2019.
  • Without the bond, our elementary schools will get increasingly crowded, deferred maintenance needs will not be taken care of and our bus maintenance costs will increase.
  • Without the security/technology levy renewal, our security infrastructure will suffer and our classroom technology will age and won’t have ongoing support.
How would approval of these funding requests impact our taxes - and for how long?

If voters approve the referendum requests, the average homeowner ($350,000 home) would see a tax increase of about $36 per month. Approval of the security and technology levy renewal would not increase taxes, because it renews existing funding that is already in place. Calculate the tax impact you can expect to see on your home. The operating levy would be approved for ten years, a bond would be approved for twenty years and the capital projects (security and technology) levy would be renewed for ten years.

How long does the funding for the bond (Q2) last?

Question 2 is a 20-year bond request for $111.7M to build a new elementary school on district-owned land in Chaska, address deferred maintenance and building repair projects across the district, and build a larger bus garage.

Generally bond issues for MN schools are always 20 years.  Just like your home mortgage they can be refunded (refinanced) if interest rates decline further for the remainder of the bond.  In fact, we have refunded most of the District’s bonds over the last 10 years which has reduced the tax levy by nearly $21 million.  

As our district grows and we have more residents, does that impact our taxes?

As we grow and add residents and businesses, our tax base also grows. This spreads the overall tax burden over more taxpayers, which can reduce the amount of tax paid by individuals. Tax rates are calculated based on the current population base, but we know the population is growing. As the tax base grows, the cost of the referendum is spread across that growth, so the reality is that the tax impact is likely to decrease over time. 

In fact, that’s exactly what has happened historically.  If you look at this levy impact comparison, provided by BakerTilly, the district’s financial advisor, you’ll see that the tax impact of all levies on that average home ($350,000) has decreased by almost $364 dollars a year since 2014.  

Why have I seen different totals for the 2019 Referendum?

The Nov. 5 Referendum will ask residents of E. Carver Co Schools to vote on funding to address budget gaps and growing enrollment in the district. There will be 3 questions on the Nov. 5 ballot:

  • Question 1 is a $550 per pupil operating referendum for $5.6 million for 10 years.
  • Question 2 is $111.7 million 20 year bond referendum.
  • Question 3 is a Security and Technology Referendum at 4.947% of Net Tax Capacity which equates to $4.4 million for 10 years.

These three questions have NOT changed since the School Board made the decision to go out for the referendum in June 2019, yet there has been some confusion on the total cost of the referendum because of reporting changes by Southwest Media News.

In the June 20 edition of the Chaska Herald and Chanhassen Villager — and as it has done in many previous school referenda — the editor chose to combine the three questions and report them as a sum, totalling $121.7 million dollars.

Question 1          $5.6M
Question 2      $111.7M
Question 3          $4.4M
Total                $121.7M

The editor then changed the manner in which the referenda questions were summarized and reported a new total in the October 10 edition of both newspapers. This time, taking Questions 1 and 3 annual amounts, times the total number of years of the levies.

Question 1          $5.6M x 10 years = $ 56.0M
Question 2                                          $111.7M
Question 3          $4.4M x 10 years = $ 44.0M
Total                                                    $211.7M

If residents look at the sum over the 10-year period, these figures are correct.  However, the school district will NOT receive “lump sums” of funding for Questions 1 and 3, but rather the amounts of $5.6M and $4.4M for these two levies would be received on an annual basis over 10 years.  Additionally, it is important to know that taxpayers do NOT pay taxes on these “lump sum” amounts all in one year.

School Districts across the state communicate referendum questions in the same manner as E. Carver Co. Schools does, and has done, in past and present elections. We follow legal requirements for referendum ballot language.

In summary, the district did NOT increase or change its reporting of the amount of the referendum, but rather, the newspaper chose to report it in a different manner than it has in past school referendum elections. This has caused questions to arise about the total amount that the district is asking voters to consider in the November election.

If voters approve the referendum requests on the Nov. 5 ballot, the average homeowner ($350,000 home) would see a tax increase of about $36 per month.  Voters can see that school district taxes have actually declined over the last six years, even with the 2013 and 2015 voter approved referenda (more than 14% decline on the average $350,000 home). See Levy Impact Comparison chart here.

Didn’t we just approve a referendum in 2015? How have those dollars been used?

In 2013, voters approved the security and technology levy and renewed an operating levy. In 2015, voters approved an operating levy increase and a bond. The 2015 bond was used to build Carver Elementary, add on to Clover Ridge Elementary and Victoria Elementary, build a new pool and athletic center, and address deferred maintenance. The 2015 operating levy increase was used for operating expenses for the new facilities and to help bridge a budget gap. Learn more about how the bond funds have been used.

Operating Levy

What has the district done to manage costs and avoid asking voters for more funding?

We have worked hard to do responsible budget planning with staff and the School Board. We have made budget cuts totalling nearly $10 million in the last decade – including $3.5 million in the last three years alone. However, expenses continue to outpace revenue and strain our operating budget. We spend $7.4 million dollars annually out of our general budget to cover unfunded mandates that are not fully reimbursed from state or federal sources for special education services. This is exacerbated by state funding that has not kept pace with inflation for several years. If state funding had kept pace with inflation since 2003, we would have received more than $6 million in additional funding this year alone. Looking ahead, expenses will exceed revenue by approximately $9 million over the next two years based on current assumptions. This is not sustainable, and will require both cost containment and increased revenue for balanced budgets.

If the referendum does not pass, what will be impacted/cut?

A summary of proposed budget containment can be found here.

How would class sizes be impacted if a referendum does or does not pass?

If an operating levy increase is not approved, it is likely that class sizes will increase by 1.0 to 1.5 students across all grade levels.  If voters approve a levy increase, it would enable the district to maintain class sizes.

Why does the district need more funding?

While the district has worked diligently over the past years to keep costs in check through cost containment measures and responsible budget planning, expenses are outpacing revenue. State funding is not keeping up with inflation or increasing costs, and we are not fully reimbursed for the important special education services we provide. One way to fill this funding gap is by asking voters to approve an increase in the district’s operating levy.

What do operating levies pay for?

Operating levies pay the costs of operating schools, such as staff salaries, classroom materials and supplies, transportation costs, utilities, academic programming and offerings, and other student support services.

New Elementary School

Where would the new elementary school be built?

The new school would be built on 5.6 acres of district-owned property in Chaska near Big Woods Blvd — east of Hwy 212. View diagram.

How will a new elementary school impact boundaries?

If voters approve a bond request, the new elementary would open in either fall 2021 or fall 2022. Due to our district’s growth, new boundaries would need to be developed regardless of whether voters approve a bond request for a new elementary or not. We would work with our community to define a process for establishing new boundaries.

Why don’t we just add on to existing elementary schools rather than build a new one?

The Facility Task Force looked at two options to manage projected elementary enrollment growth: adding on to three elementary schools or building a new elementary school. The Task Force recommended a 610-student elementary school as their preferred option, in part because it would cost less than three building additions and would also be less disruptive to students.  The new elementary school is expected to cost $35.9M, where additions to three schools would cost $40.5M. This 610-student size was the smaller of two new school options the Task Force considered, but would be built so that additions could be added later if needed for additional enrollment.

Didn’t we just build a new elementary school?

Yes, voters approved a bond in 2015 that included funding to build Carver Elementary School. The school was built to meet our needs at the time and was nearly full when it opened. Several residential developments in Carver and throughout our district have started that weren’t anticipated when Carver was built.

How much is the district growing - and where is the growth taking place?

Demographic studies project an overall enrollment increase of 1,400 students in five years, with nearly two-thirds of those students at the elementary level. The district is currently at capacity, or close to it, in most elementary schools. The majority of our growth is in Victoria and Carver, but Chaska and Chanhassen also have planned residential developments which will impact enrollment.

What is the capacity and at each building and what are the enrollment projections for each school?

This document prepared by Wold with Davis Demographic enrollment projections shows our current program capacity with enrollment projections.

If we are having growth at the elementary level, why won’t that impact our middle and high schools?

Our existing middle and high schools currently have enough space and capacity to meet the projected enrollment growth through 2028-29, according to the demographer’s report.

How reliable is the demographer’s study?

Demographers’ reports are projections based on historical data, housing information, births and other research. Our demographers did an initial study in January-May 2018. They then reviewed and updated their original findings, which confirmed their original report. The first five years are based on children who are already born and homes that have been started or have permits. The second five years are projected more conservatively to ensure we don’t overbuild, which means our growth projections could actually be higher than anticipated in the later years. In general, we tend to use conservative estimates when working with a demographer.

Deferred Maintenance

What is deferred maintenance? Don’t you maintain the buildings regularly?

Deferred maintenance is similar to what takes place at your home. There are things you do as they come up (new carpet, for example) and other things that you wait until they are needed that tend to be higher cost (new roof, for example). Schools are no different. There are items maintained every year and other items that build up over time and cost too much to cover through the district’s annual budget. This deferred maintenance then requires additional funding provided through a bond request approved by voters. The district’s annual budget for deferred maintenance is between $2.5 and $4 million – enough to cover some of the most pressing needs, but certainly not all needs districtwide.

Why is there so much deferred maintenance required?

Even though the district has been growing and building new schools, the median age of our schools is 34 years. While there have been updates to parking lots, roofs, flooring and paint over the years, the district has a limited budget to cover deferred maintenance. Additional needs include things like inefficient heating and ventilation systems, cracked and worn foundations, eroded flooring and more. Since 2011, the district has invested about $30 million in deferred maintenance through various funding sources. While this ongoing maintenance is critical, it is not enough to cover all the needs in a district our size with aging facilities and ongoing building needs.

How were the plans made for which schools receive which deferred maintenance projects?

A facilities task force met several times in fall 2018 to provide recommendations to preserve and maintain learning spaces for years to come and serve a student population that is projected to continue growing.  The scope of current facility needs they identified was large and will require both additional funding and prioritization to accomplish. The district engaged the services of architects, engineers and a construction manager to develop the list, along with the buildings and grounds department.  They reviewed the age and life expectancy of mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, as well as roofing and building exteriors. They also considered the general wear and tear to determine the greatest needs.

What specific deferred maintenance would take place at each building?

Based on the work of the Facility Task Force, these are the items that would be addressed at each site. An additional list of $77 million of long-term maintenance items were also recommended over the next ten years, which would be funded by future School Board levy authority.

What improvements would be made at Chanhassen and East Union Elementary?

In the past 8 years, the following deferred maintenance has been done at these schools: Chanhassen Elementary and East Union Elementary deferred maintenance projects

Both schools require further study by a team of architects, engineers, construction managers and district staff to determine how best to update their aging infrastructure. Due to their unique building designs, repairs to their roofs and building exteriors are very expensive and a cost-benefit analysis is needed before going beyond the updates recommended by the Task Force. The updates recommended by the Task Force are listed here.

The decision making process, much like one the members would have with their own homes or large investments such as a vehicle, revolved around the idea of when is it appropriate to reinvest, when can you afford to reinvest, and when is it time to consider a different alternative to avoid costly repairs on a building that may not serve the District in the best functional manner for the future.  This became the foundation for evaluating the concept of renovation vs. additions along with renovation vs. new construction. One of the guiding criteria for this was a rule of thumb commonly utilized by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) in the past as well as other organizations that evaluate facilities such as Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA). This essentially states that if the renovation costs for a building will exceed 60% of the cost of new construction, strong consideration should be given to new construction. That said, repair and maintenance only address part of a building’s issues and the Facilities Task Force needed to look at other challenges facing any particular building.

Based on challenges related to building size, building organization, site size and location, neither Chanhassen Elementary nor East Union Elementary was determined appropriate to expand to accommodate pending enrollment projections. Additionally, as these buildings were evaluated it was determined that while they continue to serve the District for the near future, the best long term approach would be to consider each of these buildings for replacement with more appropriate facilities and sites over time to best align with the District educational goals. Decisions and investments related to physical repairs will be made based on this approach.

As always, the District is committed to the safety of all occupants within the schools and will be making any critical repairs to continue to ensure this happens. Throughout the year we evaluate all of the schools to determine needed maintenance work at every building. For each of these schools, this evaluation will continue to include considering long term replacement to avoid making financial investments that would greatly exceed the short term needs to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. The District is currently focused on the most critical needs now balanced with a responsible tax impact for the community. These include capacity needs as well as other high priority maintenance investments at all buildings in the immediate future. Replacement of these two buildings would likely be an important focus of the next reinvestment stage in the District although a schedule for that has not been determined at this time. If the District proceeds with replacement of these schools in the future it would explore many options related to that approach including location of a replacement building and how it will support the existing neighborhood communities currently attending these schools, as well as the value the District has in the properties and finding the best use for those in the future.

For detailed information about the Facility Task Force decision making and supporting documents, click here.

How much is the district growing - and where is the growth taking place?

Demographic studies project an overall enrollment increase of 1,400 students in five years, with nearly two-thirds of those students at the elementary level. The district is currently at capacity, or close to it, in most elementary schools. The majority of our growth is in Victoria and Carver, but Chaska and Chanhassen also have planned residential developments which will impact enrollment.

Chaska High School has very high heating costs. Would that be fixed as part of the bond request?

Selected mechanical systems and new controls for Chaska HS are part of the bond request.

Bus Garage

Why do we need a new bus garage?

The current bus garage is only half the size needed to properly house and maintain district buses, and the referendum request for a larger garage would provide the space needed and make bus service more reliable for students. Because the district will be bringing bus services in-house, the district will provide better service to families, save money and take better care of our own assets. The garage needs additional mechanical bays, wash bays and more land for parking and space. The current 6.5 acres site includes 42,000 square feet of storage which is half the size of the facility needed to house and maintain the bus fleet. About 40-50 buses are currently stored outdoors which impacts the life expectancy of the buses and increases costs for items such as electrical plug-ins, excessive fuel while idling, and labor costs. As the district grows, the need for more buses will grow as well.

Do we own land for a new bus garage?

At its August 19 meeting, the School Board approved entering into a purchase agreement to purchase an existing commercial/industrial building which will be converted into a new bus garage. The building is located at 4201 Norex Drive in Chaska. The purchase of the property is contingent on passage of the November 5 bond referenda, which includes funding to build a larger bus garage. Learn more HERE. The existing site will be sold, providing funds to offset some costs of building a new garage.

Why do the city of Chaska and Carver County care about our bus garage site?

The District’s bus garage is located on a prime site in downtown Chaska. If voters approve the bond request, the district could sell the current bus garage site to the city of Chaska or Carver County. Redevelopment of this site would provide an opportunity for the three government agencies (City, County and School District) to better serve its citizens and students.

  • Carver County is one of the fastest growing counties in the state. Carver County is looking at ways to plan for this rapid growth. The bus garage site is the preferred location for relocation of Carver County’s new Health & Human Services Center.
  • The Chaska Library’s current location is undersized for the community’s needs. The community is looking at the current location of the County’s License Center as the preferred location for a new, expanded Library. The current bus garage site would then provide space to relocate the County License Center.
  • The current bus garage site also has the potential for adding much needed affordable housing for the city of Chaska.

Security and Technology

Doesn’t the district already have a security and technology levy?

Yes, but this levy is due to expire.  The district is looking to renew that existing funding, therefore, it would not increase taxes.

How would security and technology levy be spent?

It would continue and maintain the work we have been doing with the existing levy. Security includes: secured school entrances, visitor check-in and management, keyless “smart” doors, surveillance cameras, software/servers/storage, paging system. Technology includes: tablets and chromebooks, internet monitoring, engineering/curriculum labs, additional bandwidth, instructional and technology support, collaboration stations, professional development.

Why are technology and security combined into one levy request?

The official name of this levy is a Capital Projects Levy, and it can only be used for specific expenses related to security and technology.