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Continued: 4 south metro districts putting levies on ballot

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

Lakeville

The Lakeville district has eliminated $30 million in spending over the last seven years, resulting in larger class sizes, increased fees for activities and busing, and art and music cuts. The enrollment in the district also has decreased by about 420 students from 2007 to 2012.

Now the district is asking voters to approve a levy to allow it to “get on a better path,” said Superintendent Lisa Snyder. The tax increase would amount to $167 annually on an average $230,000 home.

If passed, $4 million of the $5.6 million in new funding would go toward balancing the budget in 2014-15. The other $1.6 million would go toward hiring teachers to reduce class sizes and adding STEM programming, said Snyder.

The district’s levy presentation shows that Lakeville receives the lowest amount in general fund revenue out of the metro area’s 20 largest districts. This levy would “get us out of last place,” said Jason Molesky, the district’s director of program evaluation.

And if it doesn’t pass? “Our board has chosen not to create scenarios [of what would be cut] which some districts have chosen to do,” said Snyder. However, “we may have to look at reorganizing our whole district” if it doesn’t pass, she said.

In both 2007 and 2010, voters renewed existing levies but denied requests for new funding. In 2007, the levy failed by 12 votes, which many attributed to having just four polling places, Snyder said. This year there will be 20 polling places.

Inver Grove Heights

In June, the Inver Grove Heights school board approved putting a $31 million bond issue question on the ballot, saying it was needed to maintain and improve the district’s aging facilities. That bond issue would have cost owners of an average $184,000 home $91 a year.

But then they saw the results of a community survey indicating most residents would be likely to support a bond issue costing them an additional $80 or less annually, said Jason Mutzenberger, the district’s director of business services.

“So then the board really took that to heart,” he said, reducing their request in August to $24.75 million over 19 years at a cost of $77 more per year to the average homeowner.

There are fewer athletic improvements included now — a new gymnastics facility at Simley High School will have to wait — and the proposed performing arts center will have 700 seats instead of 1,200. Cuts in those two areas reduced the total referendum by $5.5 million, he said.

In the new proposal, more than a quarter of the money would go toward deferred maintenance projects, like roofs and windows. Salem Hills Elementary in particular needs maintenance, including new windows, he said.

Another quarter of the improvements are to modernize learning spaces, especially at Simley High School. And the district has proposed security updates to all its buildings.

The district last passed a bond issue in 2005 to rebuild Inver Grove Heights Middle School and make improvements to Hilltop Elementary. Technology levies were defeated in 2011 and 2012.

Erin Adler • 952-746-3283

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