After several months of community input, deliberation, budget review and discussion, the Alexandria School Board unanimously approved a school funding request on the November 5, 2019 ballot. They are recommending a solution that aligns district needs with community values and tax tolerance.
The Alexandria Public Schools will hold a one-question referendum on November 5, 2019 for a phased-in operating levy. If approved by voters, the additional funding would help the district:
Maintain or reduce class sizes
Continue with specialist teachers
Expand mental health support
Maintain or expand real world work experiences at middle and/or high school
Provide more financial stability
WHAT IS THE PHASED APPROACH?
The district is proposing a $595 per student ten year operating levy. Instead of asking voters for this all at once, the district is proposing a conservative approach which asks voters to pay for the increase incrementally over time.
In a phased-in levy, the request is broken down into three smaller amounts of $375 per student in the 2020-21 school year, increased to $485 per student in the 2021-22 school year, and then increased to $595 per student in the 2022-23 school year. The tax impact for homeowners would also be phased in over time. If the referendum request is approved by voters, the $595 per student would then remain in place for the final seven years of the levy.
This year's budget had a $1.1 million shortfall. To maintain a balanced budget, the school board cut more than half a million dollars, in addition to drawing down our fund balance, which is a critical safety valve for all districts.
Deficit spending is not sustainable. We will have ongoing cuts without additional revenue.
State education funding has not kept pace with inflation or increasing costs for the past 15 years. If it had kept pace, our district would have received nearly $3 million more from the state in 2018-19, and that gap is projected to increase.
We pay nearly $3.5 million annually for critical special education services that aren't reimbursed by the State or Federal governments, even though they mandate the services.
Our school district is in the bottom 10% of all Minnesota school districts for general education funding.
We are one of the only school districts in the area without a voter-approved operating levy, which means we don't have the additional financial support that many communities provide to help operate our schools.