Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: What schools would be impacted?
A: Schools across the district would see improvements - see highlights on the following chart.
Q: How can the tax impact be so low?
A: Because the school district is paying off old debt, it has a unique opportunity to add new debt with a minimal impact on property owners. IF voters approve the referendum, the average homeowner will see a $5 per month tax increase ($200,000 value home).
Q: Why propose so many improvements at one time?
A: Most of our school buildings are over 50 years old and are not designed for today’s learning environment. We are in the process of updating Castle and Richardson elementary schools using existing funding - but all our buildings need improvements, and all our students deserve safe, up-to-date, and healthy learning environments. We do not have enough money in our capital budget to make all these improvements, so must ask voters for approval of bond funds. The timing right now is good due to the old debt we are paying off. Because we are paying off old debt, we have an opportunity to reinvest in our schools and shape the district for years to come by taking on new debt with little additional cost to taxpayers.
Q: When would changes take place?
A: If voters approve the referendum request, construction planning would begin immediately. Most construction would take place during the next few years, with school changes complete by fall 2022.
Q: How is this election different than the one held in 2016?
A: In November 2016, we made an operating levy request. This May 2019 election will be a bond request. Bonds are for buildings and levies are for learning. Bond funds can only be used for construction and renovations. Operating levies are a legally separate funding stream that voters can approve to support classrooms and educational programs.
Q: Will there be boundary changes if the referendum passes?
A: The school district has not changed boundaries in several years, but will need to change the boundaries whether the referendum passes or not. All changes would be developed using demographic data and community input, designed to meet district goals for equity. Any boundary changes would be communicated in 2021-22, and take effect fall 2022 at the earliest.
- If the referendum passes, there will be boundary changes to align students with the consolidated elementary and middle schools.
- If the referendum does not pass, adjustments will still need to be made due to population density shifts and overcrowding in some schools.
Q: What will happen to elementary school class sizes if we move from nine elementary schools to seven?
A: Class size ranges are likely to remain the same or possibly decrease, as the new boundaries that will be put in place will even out our student populations across the district.
Q: If the referendum does not pass, will my school property taxes go down?
A: If the referendum does not pass, there is no guarantee that taxes will go down because the needs for building maintenance across the district will not go away. The School Board has the authority to tax residents without voter approval for long-term facilities maintenance funds, which would keep overall school property taxes at their current levels. However, these funds can only be used for maintenance and repairs, leaving many current needs unmet. In addition, long-term facilities maintenance funds are spread out over time, which would further delay the repairs and updates identified.
Q: Why is the vote being held in May instead of November?
A: State law allows school districts to hold bond elections in the spring as well as the fall. This allows districts to plan construction schedules that are convenient for Minnesota because our construction season is so weather-dependent. The May timeframe would allow the district to start some of the simpler construction projects in summer 2019, rather than lose a whole year. More complex projects would be planned during the school year, with most construction taking place in the summers of 2020, 2021 and 2022.
Q: What happens if the referendum is not approved by voters?
A: If voters do not approve the referendum request:
- Our schools will continue to have safety, security, and traffic flow concerns.
- Students and staff will continue to work in inappropriate, outdated, and unhealthy learning environments.
- We will continue to spend more on operating and transportation costs than if we consolidate and renovate schools.
- Some schools will remain overcrowded.
- We will miss an opportunity to reinvest in schools across the district with a minimal tax increase.
- Construction costs are projected to increase, making any future changes more expensive.
District leaders would also work hard to assess why the referendum failed and consider developing a new plan to bring to voters since the building needs will not have gone away.
Q: What is the duration of the tax impact?
A: Bonds are acquired and sold at different increments, so this bond period is expected to last for 20-22 years.
Q: Will the bond affect my 2019 property taxes? I am filling out my property tax rebate form and want to make sure I understand when the bond payments would begin.A: If the bond passes, it will appear on your 2020 property tax bill.