South Washington County school board sets funding requests

Proposals on way to ballot would produce $80-per-year tax increase on a $250,000 home.

School spending proposals that would increase taxes by $80 per year on a $250,000 home are headed to the ballot this fall in the South Washington County School District under board action taken last week.

The district wants to boost existing voter-approved levies by $6.9 million annually for security and technology improvements, as well as other purposes, and to spend $8 million — payable over 20 years — to buy land for future school construction.

For the owner of a $250,000 home, the land purchase would add $20 per year in property taxes, while the proposal to increase operating funds would boost taxes an additional $60 annually — the amount a majority of residents expressed a willingness to pay in a survey conducted this spring by Decision Resources Ltd.

Board Member Jim Gelbmann, who earlier suggested raising another $100 per pupil to send directly to schools, backed off that proposal after learning of the potential tax bite associated with the plan.

He said he still saw a need for additional operating revenues but didn’t want to go beyond the $60-per-year figure.

“I think it’s too much of a gamble to risk losing it all” by pushing for more, Gelbmann said.

According to Washington County’s 2013 property assessment report, the average market value of a Woodbury home is $245,000, compared with $196,100 in Cottage Grove. The Decision Resources survey found greater support for a multifaceted school spending plan in Cottage Grove than in Woodbury.

In August, the board plans to finalize the wording of the ballot questions. Then comes the sales campaign, which Superintendent Keith Jacobus has promised will include details on where the district plans to spend any new operating funds.

What’s to be highlighted remains to be seen, but Gelbmann, for one, said he believed class-size reduction is one priority that would “move the needle” to voter buy-in.

Anthony Lonetree • 651-925-5036

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