District 622 asks voters for an early levy renewal

  • Article by: DAAREL BURNETTE II , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 13, 2011 - 11:39 PM

The proposal would not raise taxes. The district has decided against seeking a levy increase.

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The North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District will ask voters to renew its levy 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 school 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 levy 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.

The board decided against asking voters to raise the levy this fall.

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 about $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," he said, and there's "concern about the economy in general."

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

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