Levy hike proposed by White Bear Lake schools

  • Article by: ANTHONY LONETREE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 17, 2013 - 4:11 PM

School board to ask voters to back new capital projects funding.

 

The White Bear Lake Area Schools will ask voters this fall to increase spending for technology improvements and textbook and large musical instrument purchases.

The Nov. 5 ballot proposal would increase by 75 percent the capital projects levy that has raised about $750,000 to $900,000 annually for 10 years.

The district could have asked voters to renew the levy at its current level, keeping the cost to taxpayers the same.

But the school board opted last week to seek the additional funding. Costs are rising, members have been told. The board knew, too, that nearly two-thirds of residents surveyed recently had expressed a willingness to pay an additional $20 per year to cover new capital expenditures.

In 2013, the capital projects levy cost the owner of a $200,000 home in the district about $26. If approved by voters, the levy proposal would boost that portion of the property tax bill from $26 to $45.

Last week, Board Chairwoman Janet Newberg said the increase still would not fully cover the district’s capital needs, projected to total about $1.8 million in 2014-15.

The costs include $650,000 for media and textbooks, $550,000 for technology hardware, $507,000 for software and $100,000 for musical instruments. The district keeps on hand instruments that are too unwieldy for students to transport to and from school.

Levies for capital projects differ from school operating levies, which also require voter support but typically raise larger amounts of money.

Voters in the Stillwater and South Washington County school districts also will see levy proposals on Nov. 5.

In the Stillwater district, school board members signaled in April that they would ask voters to back a proposal to raise the current per pupil operating levy from $1,005 to $1,495 per student.

Since then, the state has changed some of the ways schools are funded, resulting in a new per-pupil figure on the Stillwater ballot: $1,536.

But Carissa Keister, a district spokeswoman, said that the levy will generate the same amount of money as projected in April. According to the district, the levy proposal would raise a total of $16.2 million, up from the current $11 million.

Taxpayers, meanwhile, now can expect to pay less than originally anticipated. In April, Keister said, the levy increase was expected to cost the owner of a median-valued $250,000 home about $186. Now, she said, the estimated tax increase is $167.

The levy proposal has the backing of Our Schools Our Valley, a grass-roots campaign led by Andy Kubiak and Tracy Maki, both of whom have children attending district schools. In a news release, the group quoted Washington County Board Member Gary Kriesel advocating passage of the levy.

“History has no reset button,” he said in the release. “The vote we cast in November will determine whether our children of School District 834 will be future leaders or followers in a very competitive world.”

 

Anthony Lonetree • 651-925-5036

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