Mayor’s Youth Council Special Meeting
Re: School Board Levy
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Northfield High School
Members Present: Katie Bull, Marie Colangelo Nate Dahlen, Peter Duba, Theo Hofrenning, Ivy Johnson, Brandon Miller, Ingrid Pfefferle, and Rachel Stark
Members Not Present: Rey Andrade, Sid Beaumaster, Nathan Dahlen, Chelsea Moses, Cyrette Saunier, Sofie Scheuerman, and George Zuccolotto
Others Present: Soraya Dangor, Anna Fure-Slocum, Joel Leer, Chris Richardson, and Kris Vohs
I. Background Information: In the past, the Northfield School District has provided very high quality programs, reflected in our 99% graduation rate and our 88% post-secondary education rate, and has maintained its physical facilities well. The greatest struggle of our district has been the lack of funding from our state government. The budget cuts began in the 2004-05 school year, and were cut again in 2005-06. In 2005-06, the city of Northfield voted in favor of a seven-year levy of $1270 per pupil that would allow for no further cuts if our district was provided with an increased fund of 2%/year from the state. This amount was not provided (in the past six years, three of those have seen no increase), and cuts were again made in 2010-11, which brought the total amount of cuts to $4 million, or 17% of the original funding since 2004-05. Since the early 2000s, the state has had a $5 billion budget deficit, and in the government’s special session, rather than settle this budget, it chose to borrow more money from the government-owned tobacco fields and delay school funding by holding back 40% of our funding one year , causing our cash balance to decrease. Our balance will stay at this deficit until the state pays us back. Our state has its highest budget deficit ever right now, but the previous highest budget deficit took fifteen years to pay the schools back, thus the school board felt it needed to turn this issue over to the community for help. It is more like to have a deeper shift of 70%-30% or something similar. The most obvious impacts of these cuts have been increases in class sizes and lost programming (ex: summer school, classes offered, etc.). Meanwhile, mandated programs (such as ESL and special education) have expanded, and while the state has given us a 35% increase for these programs (and we will be receiving more this year and next), the cost of the programs has increased by 72%, meaning the district will likely have to borrow money.
II. Operating Levy: The operating levy would increase the levy voted upon in 2005-06 from $1270 per pupil to $1604 per pupil and would extend ten years, rather than the previous seven. The inflationary increase would be set by the state, ensuring the money we receive will have the same buying power in the future. Per year, taxpayers would pay $73 more per $100000 of their taxable market value (house value). If the operating levy does not pass, $900,000 will be cut in 2013-14 and $6.7 million will be cut in 2014-15 because we will be unable to renew our current levy. Our previous highest cut was $2.7 million, which resulted in cutting 30 staff members and increased class sizes. With the cut expected in 2014-15 if the levy does not pass, ¼ of staff members will be cut, along with elective and comprehensive classes and transportation services, and extracurricular activities fees will increase dramatically. If the levy does not pass, 300 of the 339 independent school districts in Minnesota will have more funding than Northfield (currently, 141 districts get more revenue)- if the levy does pass, 95 districts will have more, including districts we most often get compared to based on our performances (Edina, St. Louis Park, etc., which have levies up to $1866).
III. Capital Projects Levy: The capital projects levy is for maintenance of physical facilities of the district’s 153 acres of land and six buildings, including technology. It would not increase taxes, but would renew the current $750,000 budget per year for the next ten years. The capital projects levy cannot pass without the passing of the operating levy.
IV. Common Reasons Provided for Opposing the Levies:
a. Higher taxes, which is true.
b. Schools are getting more money now than they have in the past, which is true, but:
i. Our unrestricted funds per pupil have gone up 1.5% per year, but this hasn’t matched inflation- taking this into account, our funding has decreased.
ii. Other new funding has been restricted to mandated programs such as ESL and special education, but the cost of these programs has gone up twice as much as the funding provided.
c. Fear of the money being used for salary increases, which is not true:
i. This has never happened before with previous levies.
ii. Settlement of union contracts are negotiated before the levy is put into place. *UPDATE (10/26/2011): The teachers’ union negotiation has already been settled, and the teachers’ salaries will not increase regardless of whether or not the levy passes.
V. MYC’s Actions: The MYC will officially remain neutral and will focus only on providing facts to students. Possible ways to do this:
b. PA announcements
d. Student-led forum with Dr. Richardson and Mr. Leer
e. Present to English classes
After information has been provided, we will hold a Kids Vote regarding the levies.
Note: For more information, please visit http://nfld.k12.mn.us/about/2011-levy-election/.