District 194 to survey voters

Levy election set for November

Before asking voters to renew an operating levy and possibly add another funding increase this November, the Lakeville Area School Board is seeking input from voters.

Hundreds of registered voters within District 194’s boundaries will be randomly selected to participate in a survey to be conducted by Springsted Inc., a company specializing in public sector consultations.

School Board members debated the wording of questions that would be posed to voters during a special meeting June 1.

Some of the questions indicate possible areas new funds, if sought, could be spent on in the district.

The survey questions reference options for the money that include band, music, choir, foreign languages or computer science programs and providing additional transportation options for student activities and academic help outside regular school hours.

Superintendent Lisa Snyder said many of the students who need extra academic help before or after school lack access to transportation.

Laura Peterson, student transportation manager at the district’s busing provider Schmitty & Sons, said this school year, the company provided transportation for students to an early-morning learning session and a STEM program at Lake Marion Elementary, a Rise program at Oak Hills Elementary, an Empower program at Impact Academy and an after-school homework help class at Kenwood Trail Middle School.

Peterson said the company provides transportation as required by school request.

“If we receive a request for transportation, obviously we’re going to accommodate it,” Peterson said.

The company has provided transportation to and from some school sports activities.

On the survey, questions will be asked to gauge public perception about the district, including opinions of how it manages money, leadership and management, quality of instruction and academic standards.

Voters will be asked Nov. 7 to renew a 10-year $73 million levy at today’s cost of $82 million; the board is also considering seeking $21 million over 10 years.

Voters surveyed will be provided information about how the district would be affected if the operating levy was not renewed.

They will be asked about whether issues like class sizes, potential staff cuts and the potential of increased activity fees would make them more or less likely to vote for the proposal or if the information provided made them change their opinion.

Board Member Terry Lind emphasized the board has not decided whether to request additional funds besides the levy renewal, but wants to hear the public’s feelings regarding the levy.

A preliminary rough estimate provided by public finance consultant Ehlers showed taxes of a property valued at $400,000 would increase by about $118 annually to fund the levy renewal and an additional $2.1 million annually.

Michael Baumann, District 194 executive director of business services, noted renewing the operating levy will not increase taxes, and the preliminary estimate showed the district portion of property taxes would decrease a few dollars if voters just passed the renewal levy.

District 194 has issued similar surveys for the past several years prior to holding a levy referendum election and voters have approved since 2013 the last two requests that included three referenda totaling around $90 million over 10 years.