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District 622 seeks $900 levy increase, $3M technology levy

It's been 13 years since the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District last sought a levy increase from voters, so you might say that it's time.

"This is not a school district that asks for an increase very often and we're working really hard to make sure we are thoughtful and careful with taxpayer dollars," District 622 Superintendent Christine Osorio said. "Because we've gone so long without an increase, we're at the point where we just need to do that."

On Tuesday, Nov. 3, District 622 will have two referendum questions on the ballot — one asking for a $900 per student increase, the other a $3 million technology levy.

District 622's boundaries stretch into Woodbury, mainly south of Interstate 94, between Radio and Woodbury drives.

A total of 1,605 levy notices will be sent out to Woodbury voters, according to district figures.

The district will be sending out 25,190 total notices.

The operating levy

The current operating levy in District 622 is $913, so question one would revoke the current levy, which was approved in 2011, in favor of a new levy of $1,813.

"Every school district in the state of Minnesota has an operating levy," Osorio said. "This is not something that only a few districts have."

The operating levy will be in place for 10 years.

The average impact on homeowners will be about $23.34 a month, according to district numbers.

The proposed levy increase will bring in an additional $10 million, Osorio said.

Osorio said the levy increase will help the district maintain class sizes, provide additional support services and build the college and career pathways.

The main reason that District 622 needs to increase its operating levy, Osorio said, is to account for the fact that the district has not seen an increase since 2002.

"Our state aid has not kept up with the rate of inflation," she said.

Additionally, when it comes to other Twin Cities school districts' levies, District 622 is at the bottom, Osorio said.

Levies at some of the other Twin Cities districts are: St. Paul School District, $1,069; South Washington County Schools, $1,352; Anoka-Hennepin School District, $1,409; Minneapolis School District, $1,838; Stillwater Area Schools, $1,857.

"This request isn't to put us at top," she said. "It's just to put us in the middle of the pack."

So far, Osorio said, voters have been relatively warm to the proposed levy requests.

However, if the levy increase should not pass, the district will be tasked with cutting $2.5 million to $4.5 million from its budget, Osorio said.

The technology levy

Question two, which is contingent on question one being passed, will ask voters to approve a $3 million technology levy.

The technology levy will be in place for 10 years.

The technology levy will help support infrastructure, server and operating system improvements, technology training for teachers, devices and security and safety improvements.

The average homeowner will pay an additional $5.75 a month.

"Technology really is the wave of the future for education," Osorio said. "We recognize that it's a really critically important component of education in our world now and we feel that it's something that needs to be invested in regularly to stay current and to make sure our students are well prepared to join the workforce in the future."

If question two doesn't pass, Osorio said, it will cause the district to delay some of the movement forward.

In an effort to help spread the word about its upcoming referendum, District 622 has been holding informational meetings and rallies, handing out informational pamphlets and will be door knocking and phone calling to help ensure that people get out to vote on Nov. 3.

"It's important for people to get out and support our schools because strong schools means strong communities," Osorio said.

Visit isd622.org/levy2015 for more information on the upcoming referendum and to calculate tax impact based on property values.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

(651) 702-0976
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