N. St. Paul school board to vote on levy options

  • Article by: DAAREL BURNETTE II , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 16, 2011 - 9:13 PM

The district must decide whether to seek renewal of the existing levy or seek a larger authorization from voters.

The North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale school board will consider Tuesday whether to seek to extend its current levy or increase it this fall.

The current levy brings in about $10 million a year, with $830 for each pupil. The owner of the average-valued home pays about $287 a year for the levy. If it's renewed, local taxes would not be increased.

"The consequences of not having this levy would be devastating to our kids," said Mark Wheeler, the board's chair. "As an organization ... we can't do without 10 percent of our funding."

The current levy lasts until 2013, but the state allows for districts to renew a year early.

"This avoids the big election year next year, and if we waited until then, it'd be do or die," Wheeler said. "Even if we run a renewal referendum this year and it fails, the current levy is still in place next year and we'll have a chance to try again."

Other local districts, including Stillwater Area Schools, also are considering placing levy question on this year's ballot.

The state has continually slashed education funding and forced districts to depend more on local tax levies for funding.

The North St. Paul-Maplewood- Oakdale School District faced a $6.9 million budget shortfall for the 2011-12 school year. In January, the board approved a $4 million budget cut and use of the district's fund balance, or savings, to cover the remaining shortfall.

A survey conducted last year found that a majority of voters in the district were supportive of increasing the levy by $97 for the average homeowner, which would give the district around $300 more per pupil.

But a similar survey conducted in the spring showed that much of that support had waned. Wheeler said this could be because of the slumping economy. "The housing market continues to decline," and there's "concern about the economy in general," he said.

If the board does decide to seek a levy increase, it likely won't be more than a $97 increase, Wheeler said.

For the district to place a levy on the ballot, it must file paperwork with the state, but cannot do so until after the state government shutdown ends. Whether the district gets a levy on this year's ballot depends upon how long the government shutdown lasts, district spokeswoman Jennifer McNeil said.

The school board meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the District Education Center, 2520 E. 12th Av. in North St. Paul.

Daarel Burnette II• 651-735-1695 Twitter: @DaarelStrib

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