District 622 School Board votes to place levy proposals on November ballot

Property-tax increase would average $29 per month

At an Aug. 25 North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School Board meeting, superintendent Christine Osorio said District 622 ranks dead last when it comes to per-pupil funding out of the 20 largest metro-area school districts.

District 622 needs to double its per-pupil spending, Osorio said, or risk falling even further behind. 

During the special meeting Tuesday, Aug. 18, the board members approved a resolution to place two questions on the ballot in November, asking for approval of an operating levy increase of $900 per pupil and a $3 million technology levy.

The technology levy would be used to pay for increased Wi-Fi bandwidth, and the purchase, installation and maintenance of software and technology for classroom instruction, as well as increased safety and security measures.

If approved by voters, both levies would be for a period of 10 years and would begin at the start of the 2016-2017 school year.

“Our goal is to revoke and replace the current levy to put us in the middle of the pack [with other districts] and give opportunities to our students that other districts have,” Osorio said.

District 622 currently receives about $913 per student in local, state and federal tax revenues. That’s about $1,200 below the per-pupil average in the seven-county metro area, for a total of about $13 million less in overall revenue annually, according to district leaders.

Voters approved the continuation of an existing operating levy in 2011, but District 622 has not increased its operating levy in over a decade.

Depressed home values following the collapse of the real-estate market in 2008 have further contributed to the district’s financial woes. While home values have finally begun to rebound, they remain far below pre-Great Recession levels, and lag behind many metro-area school districts’ median home values.

District 622 has little in its reserves, and the school board was forced to make deep cuts totaling $8 million in February, after being presented with a 2013-2104 audit that showed a general fund deficit of the same amount.

If the levy were to be voted down by residents in the district, 622 would likely be forced to make further budget adjustments starting in 2016, beginning with around $4 to $5 million in cuts that year, business services director Randy Anderson said.

According to a district statement, approval of the operating levy increase would result in an increase of $23.24 per month in levy-related expenses for a typical homeowner in the district.

Approval of the technology levy would add an additional $5.75 per month. The combined levies would add about $348 per year to a typical homeowners tax bill.

Those figures are based on a home valued at $190,000, Anderson said.

The actual tax impact to homeowners in the district would vary depending on a home’s assessed value. Anderson said a tax calculator and other information on the levy proposals would be available on the district website beginning this week to help homeowners calculate how much they would pay if the proposed levy referendums gain voter approval on Nov. 3.

District 622 is among several Twin Cities school districts asking voters to approve large levy increases in November. In the neighboring South Washington County School District, for example, board members approved a two-part bond measure that, if approved, would have an  average homeowner in that district paying nearly $420 more per year in property taxes.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at jnielsen@lillienews.com or 651-748-7822.

 

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