A levy referendum for Mounds View Public Schools that would more than double the amount of funding per student will be on the ballot for district residents Nov. 5. The tax impact would be $28 per month for a median-valued home of $275,000.
The school board unanimously approved a resolution calling for the vote at its August meeting. It has been 13 years since the district asked for additional resources in a levy referendum, said Board Chair Jonathan Weinhagen. “2006 was the last time we went out for additional resources to support our work,” he noted.
Treasurer Bob Helgeson remarked that the bond referendum passed in 2017 was for buildings. Operating levies are for expenses to keep the school programs running. “This is a different ask,” he said. “This is to keep those great programs within those buildings.”
Clerk Sandra Westerman noted that the board didn’t come to this decision lightly. “We have
significant needs that aren’t going away. In fact, they are getting more pronounced,” she said. The levy will specifically enable the district to address mental health concerns and school security, she noted, topics she feels passionate about.
The referendum would also enable the district to expand its career pathways programs and bolster its general fund.
The school currently has two operating referendums that total $835 per student. One will expire after taxes payable 2019 and one after 2022, said Carole Nielsen, executive director of administrative services. The expiring one is $535 and the one that expires in 2022 is $300.
The levy on the ballot includes a renewal of the $535 referendum, revocation of the $300 levy expiring in 2022 and replacement with $1,200 in additional funding per student. The total amount per student would be $1,735, a $900 increase from the current levies in place. It would begin in 2020, last for 10 years and have an inflationary increase allowed.
The current levy did not have an inflationary adjustment and the district lost about 3 percent of the funding over the years, Nielsen said. The levy was 16 percent of the district’s budget over a decade ago but now is 13 percent. That’s about a difference of $5 million in a recent budget.
The district is facing financial challenges, Nielsen said. The general fund has been used for increasing special education costs. During the 2017-18 school year, the district subsidized special education with $7 million of general fund money. Although the Legislature recently allocated more for special education, it will take time for the district to catch up.
This school year, the district’s fund balance reserves fell below school board policy, Nielsen added. The state’s general fund formula has also not kept pace with inflation. “All these things continue to put additional pressures on our general fund to provide the needs for students,” she explained.
The referendum would continue existing funding and provide additional revenue of $12 million, according to the district.