Referendum Community Forum Q & A

On October 9, representatives of the school district held a community forum to answer questions about the referendum. As part of the district’s commitment to being transparent and responsive, those questions and answers are provided here so those not in attendance can receive the same information.

General

 

If the Nov. 5 referendum doesn’t pass, we will have to cut programs in all areas but there will be no cuts in equity programming? If equity programming costs $300/pupil and the levy is for $500/pupil, equity seems like a large one that would be cut. The $300/pupil information reported at a recent Board meeting was not related at all to Eastern Carver County Schools equity programming or spending, but to state funding categories.

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 retitled 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.

 

In 2015 I felt far more aware of a major referendum. I just recently  found out about this one, how long has the district been advertising and informing residents?                                                                                               The School Board approved the referendum at their Monday, June 24 meeting, which is a typical timeline and similar to past referenda in our district. The district has been communicating about the referendum during the months preceding this meeting, and throughout the summer and fall. We have communicated through parent and community newsletters, local newspaper, social media and website information. 

 

Leaving projections aside, what has been the actual growth over the last five years?                Over the last five years, the district has grown by approximately 360 student enrollments.

 

What is the annual budget?                                                                                                                                                                                                         In fiscal year 2019-2020 The total budget for all funds is $172,110,078.  This includes: the general fund, school nutrition, community services, construction, debt services, internal services and fiduciary.   

The general fund is the largest portion of the annual budget at $125,141,925.  The general fund accounts for educational activities, district instructional & support programs, district and school administration, operations & maintenance, transportation and other legal expenditures not accounted for elsewhere.

Are you going to ask for more money? The school board understands that asking the community for money should occur only when absolutely needed. On Nov. 5, residents will be asked to vote on three funding requests to address current funding needs and enrollment growth in our community. Future needs will be addressed in the future. 
Security & Technology

 

Q3 is the renewal of security and technology. How much relates to security (amount and %) and what security measures will be improved in our schools? The security and technology levy supports four areas and the funding allocated comes out to the following approximate percentages: infrastructure (35%), devices (26%), support (26 %), and security (13%). Although the category of security indicates a funding allocation of 13%, the implementation of security systems cannot be implemented without infrastructure and support. 

The proposed authorization will enable the district to continue important security measures we started in 2013 to:

 

·   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

· ·   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

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

Can you please explain how the original six-year security and technology levy brought in something like $2.45 million, and  now brings in $4.4 million, but you say my taxes didn’t increase – how can that be?                                                                    Question 3 is a renewal of an existing security and technology levy that was approved by voters in 2013. The security and technology levy is based on a tax rate — 4.947% times the NTC. The tax rate for this levy renewal is not being increased from the original 2013 referenda. 

Also, as our district grows, so does the tax base. As taxes are spread across a growing tax base, taxes decline for homeowners. School district taxes for the district’s residential taxpayers have actually declined between 14-16% over the last six years, even with the 2013 and 2015 voter approved referendas. See Levy Impact Comparison chart. If voters approve the Nov. 5 referendum requests, the average homeowner ($350,000 home) would see a tax increase of about $36 per month, based on the current tax base. With the projected growth in the community, the tax burden on individual properties will decline. 

 

New Elementary School

 

What is the proposed timeline for building a new school? If the bond to build an elementary school is approved, the school would be complete for the 2022-2023 school year.
If the Referendum Fails

 

What would be the impact on students if the referendum didn’t pass? What would be cut?                                                                                                            Without the passing of the three funding requests, there would be negative impacts such as continued crowding, increased class sizes, deteriorating facilities, teacher and staff layoffs, continued cuts to academic programs and services, cuts to technology equipment and support, and limited updates to school security systems. It is important to recognize the compounding effect if any of the three questions do not pass. Learn more HERE.

 

Community Ed Funding

 

I read on social media that the district is threatening to cut $50k in band, yet spends over $8M in community education.    How does that work? Why do we have a referendum to support community education?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 The 2019 Referendum does NOT include any funding for Community Education programs or services.

Per Minnesota Statute, Community Education (Community Services) is a separate fund and receives its funding separate from the School District. These funds DO NOT come from the District’s general fund budget nor does the school district spend any of its general fund budget on these programs.   By Minnesota Statute, Community Education must be included in our budget and audit reports and submitted to the Minnesota Department of Education on an annual basis.  

Community Education receives nearly 70% of their funding from community members who participate in community education programs and classes.  Certain community education programs receive funding from a combination of state aid and local levy. This includes Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) and School Age Child Care (children with disabilities who attend before and after child care).  Community Education receives about 18% of its funding in state aid with only 11.3% of its funding from local taxes. Community Education programs provide learning opportunities for our community’s youngest learners, adult learners and afterschool programs for all students.

Community Education programs include:

  • Preschool
  • Early Childhood Family Education
  • Youth Enrichment Programs
  • School Readiness
  • Adult Enrichment
  • Child Care

 

Tax Impact

 

I need an explanation on the average house market value at $350,000 and how taxes went from $2,477 five years ago and  down to  $2,113 now, a decrease of $363.76. I don’t understand how they decreased.                                                                                                                      As our district grows, so does the tax base. As taxes are spread across a growing tax base, taxes decline for homeowners. School district taxes for the district’s residential taxpayers have actually declined between 14-16% over the last six years, even with the 2013 and 2015 voter approved referendas. See Levy Impact Comparison chart. If voters approve the Nov. 5 referendum requests, the average homeowner ($350,000 home) would see a tax increase of about $36 per month, based on the current tax base. With the projected growth in the community, the tax burden on individual properties will decline.
Bus Garage

 

  • Is the $14 million just for the purchase of the bus garage building?
  • How will this be refurbished?
  • Where is the budget for that?
  • How will buses be financed? The equipment in the garage?
  • When you sell the old garage, where will that money go?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
The $13.7 million figure includes, purchase of the building, the land and upgrading the property to be used for a bus garage.  It will also include some of the necessary equipment to run a bus garage operation (fuel stations, bus lifts, mechanic tools, etc.). 

The buses will likely be financed in a couple of ways, purchasing and leasing. The Board approved the proposal to bring bus operations and transportation in-house. This will begin in the fall of 2021.  The current budget of $5.2 million for our contracted services with Positive Connections will be diverted and used to pay for the bus purchases or leases as well as bus drivers, dispatchers, routers and any other equipment.

The sale of the bus garage will lower the cost of purchasing and refurbishing the new bus garage.  This will provide funds which will be used for additional deferred maintenance projects on some of our older schools.