Two Ballot Questions for Increased School Funding This November
Stability and Technology for Our Kids
Throughout the pandemic we have seen the cost of everyday items increase. From lumber prices to diapers to eggs, the ripple effect of increasing costs is being felt by everyone. As a school district, we continue to be challenged with school funding that has not kept pace with the rate of inflation.
The money needed to properly fund education is determined by the state legislature. Like most Minnesota school districts, our only option to increase funding is to ask voters to consider a school funding increase. These additional funds would help maintain our current programs and services we provide to students and limit budget cuts in the future.
In January 2021, the school board approved a three-year, $21 million dollar budget adjustment process to balance our current expenses (the money going out) with our revenue (the money coming in). One of the budget adjustment recommendations included asking our community for additional funding. The SoWashCo Schools budget is currently operating with a 4.7% fund balance which equates to only 2.5 weeks of operations. A fund balance is like a savings account so we can be prepared for the unexpected - like a pandemic.
During the July school board meeting, members voted unanimously to approve a resolution asking voters to consider a school funding increase through an operating levy and a capital projects levy. Both levies will be on the Nov. 2 ballot.
Question 1 - Stability
The first ballot question asks voters to consider an increase to the current operating levies. If approved, the ballot would revoke operating levies from 2015 and 2017 and replace and combine them into one operating levy to provide additional funding for classrooms, instruction and other school operating costs. The new operating levy would increase funds from $1,536.60 to $1,886.60 per student and would generate an additional $6.9 million per year. The funds would also include an annual increase at the rate of inflation for 10 years, which is now standard for most school districts.
Question 2 - Technology
The second ballot question asks voters to consider an increase to the capital projects levy. It would revoke and replace the 2017 capital projects levy with a new levy for technology to increase funds from $112 to $270 per student. SoWashCo Schools has the lowest capital projects levy in the state with inadequate funding to fully cover the cost of student devices, maintenance, software and infrastructure like wifi and business applications. During the pandemic, we distributed more than 18,500 student devices and 1,500 staff devices. Our staff must continue to provide maintenance and upgrades, along with a replacement plan, to successfully utilize technology as a tool for learning.
The Nov. 2 election will be critical in providing the stability needed to address other pressing issues. If the ballot questions are approved, we will continue planning for our next challenges - growth in our communities, overcrowded schools and uneven enrollment increases. Without first having stability in our operations, we would struggle to move forward.
To learn more about the ballot questions, the tax impact on your property and answers to frequently asked questions, please visit sowashco.org/vote2021. Early voting has begun. Be sure to vote on or before election day.