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Levy wording approved, but 833 board member asks, 'How will money be spent?'

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Levy wording approved, but 833 board member asks, 'How will money be spent?'
Woodbury Minnesota 8420 City Centre Drive 55125

South Washington County School Board members have approved the final wording of three referendum questions that voters will see in the November election, even as one board member said administrators should provide more information about how the money will be spent.

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The board approved the ballot measures at a meeting last Thursday, Aug. 8. District voters will decide the levy questions Nov. 5.

The first question asks voters to renew two existing voter-approved property tax levies. If approved, the district will collect $180.35 per pupil for 10 years on a referendum that is set to expire this year. The district also will receive $62.53 per pupil for nine years, beginning with taxes payable in 2015, for a referendum expiring next year.

Combined, the existing levies generate about $4.6 million a year for the district’s general fund.

The second and third ballot questions cannot be approved if voters reject the first question.

The second question, which would increase property taxes, asks voters for an additional $337 per pupil, for a total of just under $7 million. That increased revenue would be used to improve school security, upgrade technology, boost classroom spending and shore up the district’s reserve funds.

An approved second question would result in a property tax increase of $61 annually on a home valued at $250,000.

The third ballot measure asks for a bond issue of $8 million so the district can buy land for an elementary school and middle school in the future. The land, about 80 acres, could be on one campus or two sites, district officials said.

Although he voted for the wording of the referendum questions, board member Jim Gelbmann said Thursday and again at a board retreat Saturday Gelbmann said the board needs to hear more details about the spending proposed in the second referendum question.

Gelbmann said he is concerned that board members and voters aren’t getting information about how the money will be spent.

“The board hasn’t even been told,” he said. “How will the money be spent?”

The community is already reading newspaper stories about kids getting iPads for school, he said.

Barb Brown, the district’s communications director, said levy information is being prepared in PowerPoint presentations. Also, she said, “Parent University” meetings are being set and information meetings conducted by Superintendent Keith Jacobus.

Gelbmann, who supports the additional revenue, said that if the levy passes the district would still be below the average revenue of metropolitan districts. He said even more money is needed to compete with districts who have high commercial tax bases.

Also, while voting for the three-question plan, Gelbmann said he doesn’t support the district continuing to hold off-year elections.

Here are the ballot questions

School District 833 voters will see three referendum questions on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Question 1:

The board of Independent School District No. 833 (South Washington County Schools) has proposed to renew the $180.35 per pupil portion of the school district’s existing referendum revenue authorization which is scheduled to expire after taxes payable in 2013, and that renewed authorization would be applicable for ten years, beginning with taxes payable in 2014, unless revoked or reduced as provided by law. The board has also proposed to renew the $62.53 per pupil portion of the school district’s existing referendum revenue authorization which is scheduled to expire after taxes payable in 2014, and that renewed authorization would be applicable for nine years, beginning with taxes payable in 2015, unless revoked or reduced as provided by law.

Shall the increase in the revenue proposed by the board of Independent School District No. 833 be approved?

Question 2:

The board of Independent School District No. 833 (South Washington County Schools) has also proposed to increase its general education revenue by an additional $337 per pupil. The proposed new referendum revenue authorization would be applicable for ten years, beginning with taxes payable in 2014, unless otherwise revoked or reduced as provided by law.

If School District Ballot Question 1 is approved, shall the increase in the revenue proposed by the board of Independent School District No. 833 also be approved?

Question 3:

Shall the board of Independent School District No. 833 (South Washington County Schools) be authorized to issue its general obligation school building bonds in an amount not to exceed $8,000,000 to provide funds for the acquisition and betterment of a site for a future school facility?

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Scott Wente
Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
(651) 459-7600
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