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Stillwater Area School Board Approves Request to Renew, Increase Levy

If the levy is approved, the tax increase on a $250,000 home would be $14 per month, according to the Stillwater Area School District.

If voters approve the request, it would renew the current levy of $11 million and increase it by $5 million.
If voters approve the request, it would renew the current levy of $11 million and increase it by $5 million.

The Stillwater Area School Board on Thursday night unanimously approved a request to renew and increase its operating levy on the Nov. 5 ballot.

The decision is based on two years of planning and community input, and months of discussion about complex changes in state legislation.

Below is a news release from the Stillwater Area School District

If voters approve the request, it would renew the current levy of $11 million and increase it by $5 million.

This represents a five percent increase to the district’s budget. If approved, it would be the first time in 10 years that the community provided an increase in funding to its schools beyond the rate of inflation.

The funds would support students and classrooms by addressing three key issues:
1. Provide Financial Stability
  • Support current programs
  • Avoid more budget cuts

 2. Support Our Bridge to Excellence Plan

  • Recreate how students learn and better prepare them for the future

3.    Increase School Safety and Security

  • Add secured school entrances and quick response systems
  • Expand anti-bullying and mental health initiatives

“We’ve worked hard to provide a fiscally conservative and thoughtful levy proposal,” said Superintendent Corey Lunn. “In the past two years we spent countless hours with community members and staff, reviewing our budget, discussing community values and analyzing changes in state law to ensure we were presenting a clear proposal that meets students’ needs while providing the best value to our taxpayers.” 

If the levy is approved, the tax increase on a $250,000 home would be $14 per month, according to the district. This is 10 percent less than what the district originally anticipated due to new tools from the state that enable the district to ask for additional funding at a lower cost to residents.

If the levy fails, the school board has already approved a list of 105 specific budget reductions, which includes things like raising class sizes, implementing a four-day school week (which would also impact charter and private schools), reducing band/orchestra/vocal music, and restructuring or closing an elementary school. 

Randy Marsh August 08, 2013 at 10:59 PM
Shawn, can you elaborate on where passing this would place Stillwater among peer districts as far as approved and non voter approved levies? Also, since we don't pay our taxes by the month I hope you will detail the annual cost of the increase rather than using the lower total that the district and Vote Yes people will want voters to focus on in the next few months.
HHF34 August 09, 2013 at 12:31 AM
For once I'm agreeing with Randy here! Sounds like traditional scare tactics and cooking the books so it SOUNDS better on paper than the reality (what is it going to cost someone with a higher valued home or property in the district!) out of people's pocket books... $14/mo. roughly equals $168/yr. on a $250,000 home on top of what people are already paying, which isn't exactly cheap... Next, private/charter schools only real benefit from the district is in bussing. SCCS has its own schedule with the ever annoying "Parent Drive Days" and its own schedule anyway. Salem has its own schedule too. SCMS doesn't get any bussing, so no benefits to Stillwater district parents there.. SCP is viable enough on its own working within its means, and if allowed could add another classroom of most grades and still face a waiting list to get in. Most homeowners have not gotten a "cost of living" increase on their incomes, and many families have had to do more with far less income or loss of income yet the school has somehow still gotten their increase each year already...
Randy Marsh August 09, 2013 at 03:04 PM
Earth to school board: It's not a "fiscally conservative and thoughtful levy proposal" if you're spending several million dollars of your limited funds to improve security in your buildings that is not needed.
T August 09, 2013 at 05:57 PM
So, just a little data so we can judge based on facts and not conjecture. -For data on school funding (voter approved or not) all of that information is readily available on the MN Dept of Ed website, in spreadsheet form. Look for the revenue forecast spreadsheets. Picking "peer" districts is always difficult, as what do you match upon? Like enrollment numbers? Demographics? Property wealth and business level? I think often districts use athletic conferences, since those often pair similarly sized nearby districts. Perhaps Randy could do the same. If you want to keep it simple, Education Minnesota produced a document with all districts in MN showing 2002-2011 funding by levy amounts. While the editors may come to question, the data comes from Dept of Ed, and the document is intended to show funding decreases.. However, it makes it fairly easy to just compare the latter values between districts. Use a search engine for "MN School Levy Amounts" and look for the Education Minnesota link. - As for the argument that most homeowners haven't gotten a 'cost of living' increase, the data bears it's a false premise. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average wage in MN from 2007 (pre-recession) to Q42012 has gone up 10.2%. Q4-2012 (the most recent quarter available) shows a 5.1% increase on 12 months. (Interestingly, private sector wages went up 5.6% in that time, where public sector rose 1.4%) So, while individual experiences may vary, as a whole, incomes are rising. Given the recession disproportionately struck males in blue collar jobs, and given the demographics of Washington County and the district (higher average of college educated, white collar workers), the overall impact to income is most likely less than outstate MN. Last, I'm interested in knowing why some don't think the security is needed. In reviewing the list the district provided, it would seem they are trying to address two known vulnerabilities (active shooter in an open space, and access control issues) that were exploited in both the Columbine and Sandy Hook shootings. We cannot be as so foolish to fall victim to the "It would never happen here" mentality. If we know we have a problem, we should address the issue lest one of our own students is killed.
Shawn Hogendorf August 09, 2013 at 06:14 PM
If you scroll down on this link on the school district's levy page, there is a graph comparing like-sized districts, but it doesn't include the non-voter approved funds. http://www.stillwater.k12.mn.us/district/school-board/levy-2013-investing-excellence/levy-questions-and-answers
Randy Marsh August 09, 2013 at 06:59 PM
Thanks Shawn. I really wish the district (come on, there has to be at least one school board member or district insider who can provide this information) would quit trying to sweep this under the rug as though it is not a school tax levied against property owners. Perhaps T can research this and report back. I'm already fairly confident that District 834 residents are paying significantly more in non voter approved levies than others. Transparency is a word used frequently by the board and administration, but simply not practiced by either group. Nobody wants to see students killed, T, but there are limits to how much money a school district spends to protect those students. All we're doing by spending $4 million to increase security in the schools is pushing deranged gun-toters to take their violence elsewhere like churches, movie theaters and parks. It's a complete waste of money that stems from unfortunate violence that throwing more money at will not prevent in the first place. Have you ever tried to pick up your child from school for an appointment during the day? There are protections in place and they are more than adequate. It's nothing more than a ploy for the Vote Yes folks to tie school safety into their funding request so they can turn around and give teachers more money.
Sr. August 09, 2013 at 08:05 PM
Why is it they list the cuts if this levy doesn't get passed but yet they won't post a break down of where theses millions of dollars will go if it does pass? It seems very vague. I want a spreadsheet of where all this money will go, not threats of everything they'll take away...
Shawn Hogendorf August 09, 2013 at 08:11 PM
Hi Sr. Here's a link to the strategic plan, which is where the levy dollars will go if passed: http://www.stillwater.k12.mn.us/district/strategic-plan
Randy Marsh August 09, 2013 at 09:22 PM
I took this from the district's website..... "Even with the proposed increase, Stillwater’s levy will continue to be lower than our neighbors in similar sized districts such as Roseville, Mounds View and White Bear Lake, and well below leading school districts such as Minnetonka and Edina.".... I encourage anyone who has the ear of the district or the time and ability to do the research to please report back what those districts used for comparison derive from non voter approved levies and add that to the totals collected or desired with the upcoming ballot question. I think it's clear that board members and the district are refusing to be honest about those numbers and that is despicable for public officials who clamor endlessly about transparency. Please prove me wrong and I'll be the first in line to vote yes in November.
fb.com/WCwatchdog August 10, 2013 at 02:45 AM
Thanks for the article Shawn! I don't know if you read the breakdown of the costs in this levy request, but most of the items are absolutely ridiculous. ie: $990,000 to hire 11 "instructional coaches" to mentor teachers... $710,000 to plan to incorporate tools such as exercise balls in the class room (no equipment included). $684,000 to incorporate elementary art. No offense Shawn, but you spend an awful lot of time searching out only the positive. We don't expect a full investigative report like Randy keeps demanding but never takes the time to do himself... It'd do us all a great service if you'd scratch the surface of what these politicians tell you.
fb.com/WCwatchdog August 10, 2013 at 02:55 AM
Here's a review of the breakdown... http://stillwater.patch.com/groups/washington-county-watchdog/p/breakdown-of-stillwater-school-board-2013-levy-request If you read this and still want to vote "yes" then I'd LOVE to hear why. Then I'd like to sell you some educational pet rocks I can whip up and make... Only $3,500 each!
HHF34 August 10, 2013 at 05:18 PM
How about factoring in like-sized districts in out-state Minnesota for what they're paying per-pupil. What makes a kid in Stillwater more valuable than a student in out-state? As for Safety.. As others have pointed out, it's now a royal pain in the kiester to pick your kid up from school for a dentist/doctor/orthodontist/etc. appointment. Heck, it's easier to sign someone out for Huber! One also needs to remember that all of the school shootings have been done from within, Sandy Hook was done by someone the school recognized as o.k. to "buzz in". Locking the doors and making it a "Stillwater Max Penn in Training" during the school day is not going to improve safety nor student's ability to learn self-responsibility/accountability, nor exit in the case of a crisis situation. As my friends in law enforcement have stated "Evil will find a tool"...
T August 10, 2013 at 05:40 PM
Just to keep it accurate, the shooter at Sandy Hook was not "buzzed" in. He shot through the glass of the door and let himself in. To say "all" school shootings have been done within is just wee bit of an exaggeration. A portion of the security request is to address IF a shooter were to enter. Some of the schools don't have the necessary egress or lockable doors to protect children long enough to law enforcement to arrive. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't agree with all of the requests, since a few of them might be stretching 'need' vs 'want.' And yes, I see the irony in spending $82,550 to expand volunteerism in our schools...
fb.com/WCwatchdog August 11, 2013 at 03:55 AM
A few? Seriously?... read the article... hell just take the 30 minutes to go line by line on the 34 page request. Check it out: http://stillwater.patch.com/groups/washington-county-watchdog/p/breakdown-of-stillwater-school-board-2013-levy-request
Jimmy September 03, 2013 at 12:15 PM
But But But, the 2013 Legislature increased LGA. Isn't that supposed to REDUCE local taxes? The Legislature also increased aid to public schools which accounted for most of the $2,000,000,000+ tax increases, and Stillwater still has to increase levies, maybe that is why they call it Stillwater.

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