Voters approve all four south-metro school funding requests; Tabke on top in Shakopee

In Savage, two City Council incumbents came out on top of a crowded field.

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File photo: Brad Tabke photographed on Lewis Street in downtown Shakopee.

Photo: Courtney Perry, Special To The Star Tribune

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Voters in four districts across the southern metro approved school funding requests on Tuesday night, three by wide margins and one in a squeaker.

The two largest districts with requests on the ballot, Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan and Lakeville, both easily passed requests for additional operating funds. The results were 8,309-3,887 in Lakeville and 14,217-7,124 in Rosemount, according to unofficial results.

Hastings voters approved a request to renew an existing levy in a 2,622-1,931 vote, and Inver Grove Heights passed its request for money to make facilities improvements by a 127-vote margin, 1,761-1,634.

Meantime, in Shakopee, Mayor Brad Tabke was voted in for a second term, and so was the council candidate, Kathi Mocol, most closely identified with the mayor’s sometimes-controversial stances on issues.

In Savage, council incumbents Gene Abbott and Jane Victorey breezed to fairly comfortable victories over a crowded field.

A closer look at the funding requests by south-metro schools:

• Hastings was the only south-metro district asking voters merely to renew an operating levy. The $4.2 million levy, passed in 2005, will extend 10 more years and won’t increase voters’ taxes.

• Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan asked voters to increase the current operating levy by $10 million, to $30 million, generating an extra $375 per pupil for 10 years.

This summer, the district estimated that 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 would pay.

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 would have to cut $6 million in 2014-15 and $20 million in 2015-16, he said.

Voters, then, were reacting to fears that teachers and support staff would be cut, which would mean class-size increases. Certain programs would be eliminated or reduced, such as fifth-grade band and ninth-grade B sports, according to the district’s levy sheet.

• In Lakeville, the issue was a new 10-year levy request for $5.6 million, amounting to an additional $540 per pupil.

The Lakeville district has eliminated $30 million in spending over the past seven years, resulting in larger class sizes, increased fees for activities and busing, and cuts in art and music.

The district’s levy presentation showed that Lakeville receives the lowest amount in general fund revenue out of the metro area’s 20 largest districts.

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

• In Inver Grove Heights, the district sought approval of a $24.75 million bond issue to make facilities improvements. As compared with an earlier proposal that was scaled back after objections, there are fewer athletic improvements included and a proposed performing arts center would have 700 seats instead of 1,200.

In the proposal passed Tuesday, more than a quarter of the money is expected to go toward deferred maintenance projects, such as roofs and windows.

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