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District 833's scaled-back referendum would include two-part bond measure

South Washington County Schools administrators are recommending a scaled-back operating levy for the fall election ballot but do not want to ease off plans for a two-part building bond measure.

Administrators will suggest that the District 833 School Board approve plans to put a $525-per-student levy on the Nov. 3 ballot during the board’s meeting Thursday, Aug. 6, according to materials prepared for the meeting. Additionally, they will recommend asking voters to approve a $96 million bond measure to build a new middle school and make other middle school upgrades. A second bond question would finance $46.5 million in improvements to high schools and elementary schools.

The administrative recommendation also would require that the $96 million bond question’s passage be tied to approval of the operating levy. And the $46.5 million bond could only pass if the operating levy and other bond question are approved.

Administrators and School Board members have said the two issues are related: The district cannot open a new building without increased revenue to pay for its operations. The operating levy would also be used to build up the district’s reserves and avoid budget cuts next year.

If all three questions were approved, it would result in an annual property tax increase of $418 on a home valued at $250,000, according to Finance Director Dan Pyan.

Administrators said the district needs a total operating levy increase of $900 per student, but plans to split that up over this fall’s election and the 2017 election, following a survey that showed low support for a $900-per-pupil levy this year.

“By reducing the amount requested in the fall we will validate our community’s perception that the cost of increased funding is too high even though there is support for a strong educational program and support for how the district is managed,” Superintendent Keith Jacobus said.

The district plans to seek additional operating levy revenue in the 2017 election.

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.

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