Two levy questions will be on ballot in District 191

New taxes would be $120 on $250,000 home

Two school levy requests — one that doesn’t raise taxes and one that does — will be on the ballot Nov. 7 in Burnsville-Eagan-Savage District 191.

The first ballot question is for 10-year renewal of an operating levy voters approved in 2007. Failure to renew the levy, which raises $757.19 per pupil unit, would eliminate about $7.3 million in annual revenue, said Lisa Rider, executive director of business services. The levy expires June 30, 2018.

The second question is for adding $3.9 million in new tax authority to the renewed levy, or $415 per pupil unit. Officials say the 10-year authority will help maintain class sizes and programs and minimize any future budget cuts. The new taxes would rise annually with inflation, as allowed by state law.

“Question 1 must pass in order for Question 2 to even be possible,” Rider said.

The School Board voted 6-0 July 13 to place both on the Election Day ballot.

If both pass, school taxes on a $250,000 home will rise an estimated $120, according to the district. Projections show taxes from the renewed levy falling from $278 to $257. The new authority would raise taxes by $141.

The district needs the extra revenue to keep pace with annually rising costs, Board Member Jim Schmid said. The Legislature funds schools “significantly below inflation, so we have to keep up with inflation. So that’s all we’re asking for.”

“Clearly, Question 2 is something that we very much need,” Board Member Bob VandenBoom said.

“Clearly, the onus is now on us to get information out and make sure our voters are well-informed,” board Chair Abigail Alt said.

A district-commissioned survey suggests support for the new taxes. In a phone survey by the Morris Leatherman Co., 68 percent of respondents said they’d support a tax increase for school operations. A $10 monthly figure polled highest, at 23 percent.

Ten dollars a month “is what we’re asking for,” Schmid said.

In recent years the board has spent down its unassigned general fund reserve to avoid budget cuts. If state funding had kept pace with inflation over the last 15 years, the district would have nearly $600 more per pupil, it says, citing a Minnesota Department of Education analysis.