What is an operating levy referendum?
Most K-12 education funding comes from the State of Minnesota, but the state per-pupil amount is not enough to provide the classroom options and services our community expects. In an operating levy referendum, school districts ask local property owners to share in the funding of classroom education. Currently, the operation levy funds 8% of the district's operating budget.
Why is this funding needed now?
The current operating levy of $811.64 per student expires at the end of the 2018-19 school year, so this is the last opportunity to renew the current operating levy. The school district must pass an operating levy this November to avoid budget reductions of over $3 million. Such a loss would lead to cuts in teachers and staff, vocational training, sports programs and extracurricular activities.
If approved, how will continuing the operating levy impact schools?
Approving both ballot questions would sustain current class size targets and staffing levels, as well as provide necessary technology, enhanced STEAM offerings and increased technical and vocational training for students.
Didn’t we just vote on an operating levy?
Local residents voted not to renew and increase the operating levy in November 2017, and the district received feedback requesting better communication about the goals and impact of the referendum. The district hopes that through communications and outreach efforts, we have reached this goal and residents will consider the proposals to continue funding our students' education. This website is dedicated to providing information on the proposed operating levy and resources to help voters make an informed decision, and to answer questions we receive from the community.
What is STEAM education?
STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics, and is an approach to learning designed to prepare students for today's economy. Through experiential learning and problem-solving, STEAM helps students become innovative leaders in a modern world. STEAM classes have become an important part of our career readiness strategy, along with improved vocational education.
Have local community members been involved in the planning process?
Area residents helped develop our plan through more than 25 listening sessions, community meetings, a scientific survey of 350 local residents, and numerous conversations between school leaders, School Board members, local parents, teachers, business leaders and community residents.
What are the ballot questions?
The first ballot question proposes raising the operating levy to $1,200 per student and would help maintain our current class size targets and staffing levels. The second ballot question proposes an additional $450 per student, which will help implement our strategic plan initiatives, such as career pathways and STEAM curriculum.
What other steps have been taken?
The State of Minnesota is expected to increase per pupil funding 2% per year and we will work with local legislators to secure full school funding. The district has closely examined the current budget and made $2.4 million in right-sizing budget cuts.
Are the questions contingent on each other?
No. If Question 1 passes, we will be able to maintain current classes and services. Passage of Question 2 will provide an increased investment that will allow us to reach more students and make them career ready, college ready and life ready. Either can pass or fail separate from the other — however, if Question 1 fails, there will be significant cuts in this current budget, regardless of what happens with Question 2.
These questions seem confusing — do they have to be that complex?
Yes, the questions authorizing levies are typically complex. That’s one reason why the school district is working so hard to communicate factual information. Simply, Question 1 is about maintaining our current classes and services, and Question 2 is about making additional investments to continue to improve education.
If I vote for Question 2 but vote against Question 1, will the district be able to manage without significant budget cuts?
Unfortunately, if Question 1 fails, significant cuts in classes and services will be needed to balance the budget, even if Question 2 is approved. The only way to maintain existing classes and services is for Question 1 to be approved.
What was the Impact the last time an operating levy was approved?
The last increase of the operating levy was in 2008, and this was renewed in 2012. Because of this voter investment in student success, Red Wing Public Schools was able to reduce class sizes. We are proud to report that the high school graduation rate in the Red Wing Public School District was 90.8% in 2017, higher than the state average of 82.7. With the expiration of the current levy this year, the district is asking for a renewal of those funds. Additional funding is required to sustain current levels of operation and provide other updates to serve student needs due to inflation and rising costs.
What is the length of the proposed operating levy?
The length of the proposed operating levy is five years.
Why isn't the levy length ten years, as permitted by law?
The School Board decided that a ten year term was too long of a commitment to a single value for an operating levy. Instead, if the ballot questions pass, the Board will return to residents in the future to ensure the operating levy is still apporpriate at that time.
What is the estimated total tax impact of the proposed operating levy?
Homeowners, as well as owners of seasonal, business or agricultural property, can find tax impact information for their property on the tax calculator. The tax impact on the median-value home of $168,900 for payable 2019 is $18.67 a month if both ballot questions pass. This is the estimated net increase over the current year’s tax, including the expiration of the current levy and the new $300 per pupil levy adopted by the school board.
What happens if we don’t pass the proposed operating levy?
The School Board has not made any formal decisions about the changes that would be made. In board meetings, Superintendent Anderson has identified some of the changes that may be needed if Question One does not pass:
Fewer teachers, leading to larger class sizes.
Fewer course options for students, leading to less industry certification and college-ready curriculum paths.
Reduced guidance and counseling services.
Fewer extracurricular activities.
Closing Tower View Alternative Learning Center.
Charging higher fees for use of district facilities, such as community education.
Where and when is the vote?
Where can I find out more?
Local residents are encouraged to continue to share their comments and can reach out to the district to ask questions.