4 south metro districts putting levies on ballot

  • Article by: ERIN ADLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 26, 2013 - 4:45 PM

Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan, Lakeville and Inver Grove Heights are seeking levy increases. Hastings will ask for a levy renewal.

In what has turned out to be an average year for school levy requests, three south metro districts will be asking for levy increases on Nov. 5.

Two of them, Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan and Lakeville, will put operating levies on the ballot, while one, Inver Grove Heights, is proposing a bond issue.

A fourth district, Hastings, is seeking an operating levy renewal.

Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan will ask voters to increase their current operating levy by $10 million, replacing their $20 million levy with a $30 million measure, generating an extra $375 per pupil for 10 years.

In Lakeville, voters will decide whether to approve a new 10-year levy request for $5.6 million, amounting to an additional $540 per pupil.

In Inver Grove Heights, the district is seeking approval of a $24.75 million bond issue to make facilities improvements, payable over 19 years.

Hastings is the only south metro district asking voters to renew an operating levy. The $4.2 million levy, passed in 2005, would extend 10 more years and wouldn’t increase voters’ taxes.

The four districts making tax requests are among 76 in Minnesota asking voters for taxing authority this year, in the form of renewals or increased levy dollars. Of those requests, 57 are operating levies and 26 are either building bond or capital lease issues; seven districts are asking for both, according to Minnesota School Boards Association data.

“It’s going to be a pretty average year,” said Greg Abbott, communications director for the association. In an odd year, “average” means between 55 and 75 districts seeking levy approval, he added.

Rosemount- Apple Valley-Eagan

This summer, District 196 estimated the levy would cost owners of an average $225,000 home an extra $184 per year, said Jeff Solomon, the district’s finance director. But in September, additional equalization aid from the state reduced the amount taxpayers will pay.

If the levy passes, the average homeowner will be paying $56 more next year compared to this year, Solomon said. If it doesn’t pass, his taxes will decrease about $128 on that home.

The money is needed “just to allow us to sustain programming we have in place and continue the initiatives we’ve been striving for,” Solomon said.

If it doesn’t pass, the district will have to cut $6 million in 2014-15 and $20 million in 2015-16, he said. Teachers and support staff will be cut, which will mean class size increases. Certain programs will be eliminated or reduced, such as fifth-grade band and ninth-grade B sports, according to the district’s levy sheet.

The district has already been downsizing. From 2009 to 2012, $34 million was cut from the budget. The reductions resulted in 200 teachers and staff being cut, along with increased activity and transportation fees. During the past decade, the district’s enrollment has declined by about 1,200 students, Solomon said.

In 2010, voters rejected a $16 million levy question.

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