Thanks to Cardinal Corner for their support.
A levy renewal will be on the ballot for the ISD 197 school district this fall. The levy, originally passed in 2011, is set to expire this year if not renewed. The $224.48 per pupil levy works out to about $1.2 million per year—or $52 for an average home in the district (valued at $301,500).
The levy renewal will be on the ballot for the November 2, 2021 election along with the school board candidates.
What Will This Do to My Taxes?
Even if approved, the levy won’t increase your taxes. In fact, most home owners will see taxes go down slightly thanks to increasing property values. Going forward, the levy amount is tied to inflation and student population, so it can fluctuate each year.
Voting no and denying the renewal would decrease your taxes—by about $52 per year for an average home in the district.
Here’s a detailed explanation of the property tax impact and a calculator to figure out your cost.
How Will it Impact the Budget?
Operating levies help fund day-to-day operations in schools. So the levy money is used for things like teacher and paraprofessional pay, classroom books and supplies, utilities, instructional materials, and academic programming.
While this levy amounts to just 1.5% of the district’s budget, the administration says the funding is needed to maintain current class sizes, programs, and student supports. Not renewing the levy would require more than $1 million in permanent cuts to the budget.
The administration opted to renew and not increase the levy for a number of reasons, including a balanced budget, federal COVID-19 relief money, and families struggling with lingering impacts from COVID-19.
How Do We Compare to Other Districts?
A home with an average value in ISD 197 pays a total school property tax of $1,073, which puts us near the bottom for surrounding districts and below the state average. The district ranks 36 out of 42 school districts in the Association of Metropolitan School Districts in the Twin Cities.
Didn’t We Just Do a Levy?
School funding is a complicated mixture of state and federal funding and local property taxes. Those property taxes come in the form of annual levies approved by the school board and special operating and capital levies approved by the voters. Operating levies fund regular school activities, while capital levies are specifically earmarked for special capital projects—usually buildings or equipment. Then there’s bonding, where a district essentially takes out loans to fund larger projects.
So to answer the question, yes, voters are often approving levies. It’s common to have multiple levies as needs arise.
Here are the recent levies and bonds for ISD 197:
- 2011: Operating levy of $1.1 million (expires in 2021)
- 2014: Capital levy for technology support of $1.2 million (expires in 2024)
- 2016: Operating levy of $5.5 million (expires in 2027)
- 2018: Bonding for construction improvements of $117 million (expires in 2041)
The most recent bond or levy was 2018 and the next one (after this year) may be in 2024, depending on whether or not the district asks voters to renew it. In general, frequent levies mean voters have more of a say in a district’s funding.
Ultimately, annual and special levies paid in property taxes only amount to about 26% of the school district’s revenue.
You can get more information about the levy from the school district. ISD 197 is holding two informational meetings about the levy renewal on October 6 at 6:30 p.m. at Friendly Hills and October 13 at 6:30 at Heritage.
A ‘vote yes’ campaign is being organized by 197 Building the Future and they are holding community meetings to share more information.
You can also see what the school board candidates had to say about the levy.
(At this time we’re not aware of any organized ‘vote no’ campaigns.)
This kind of local election coverage only happens thanks to our generous supporters. Consider joining them with monthly or annual support through Patreon and help keep your community informed.