HLWW operating levy is up for renewal Nov. 6

October 29, 2007

District residents will see a minimal tax impact increase from referendum

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

In order to maintain small class sizes and current programs, the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School District seeks renewal of its current operating levy every 10 years.

School district residents will vote on the matter Tuesday, Nov. 6, and the HLWW School District is one of roughly 100 school districts in the state seeking public revenue next week.

The tax impact increase on a $150,000 taxable market value home is $6 annually, and for a $200,000 home is $8 annually, if both Question 1 and Question 2 pass.

Total revenue raised through the operating levy will be $267,602 per year for the next 10 years if both questions pass.

Question 1 asks residents to renew the existing general education revenue of $130 per pupil unit for 10 years. This will generate $88,281 in revenue per year for the next 10 years.

Question 2 asks for an increase in the general education of $64 per pupil unit for 10 years, which will generate $179,321 in revenue per year and will help the school district build its reserve for cash flow purposes, according to District Supt. George Ladd.

The district’s auditor recommends a two-month reserve in the general fund. However, the district says it would be comfortable with having half of the recommended amount in reserve, which would be $880,000. Currently, the district has one-fourth the recommended amount in reserve.

Having adequate cash flow is important because the state tightly meters its disbursements to school districts. Contrarily wise, the school district is required to pay its bills in a timely fashion.

When bills are due that are tagged to come out of state money that the school hasn’t received yet, the district could be forced into a precarious situation, according to Ladd.

“We never want to get into that situation. That’s why we need another source. Plus we’d like money to set aside for repairs and general maintenance,” Ladd said.

The school district, as well as metro public school districts, will only get a 1.2 percent funding increase from the state next year. With inflation at 3 percent and rising health insurance premiums, the district will be behind right out of the gate.

“In this day and age, it’s (operating levy) a necessity – not a luxury,” Ladd said.

“We’ve heard loud and clear that our class sizes are desirable. It’s one reason parents like the school,” Ladd said.

“This is a minimal increase. We try to be respectful of taxpayers here, and would hope that they understand,” Ladd added.

A cumulative $173 million funding gap for the 2008-09 school year is expected for public school districts in the Twin Cities metro area, according to a recent survey by the Association of Metropolitan School Districts, and Schools for Equity in Education.

That funding gap is the result of a bill that was approved during the 2007 legislative session, and does not assume any new revenue from next year’s legislative session or from any of the proposed operating referenda next month, according to HometownSource.com.

“If districts maintain the same programs next year that they currently offer, and they receive no additional funding from the state or through a local referendum, nearly all of them will be looking at sizeable budget gaps,” said Scott Croonquist, AMSD executive director.

Currently, HLWW is about $300 per pupil unit below the state average in general education revenue, according to Brad Lundell, executive director of Schools for Equity in Education.

“Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted is not a district that gets a lot of categorical revenue, derived from a special formula the legislature uses to target special needs – even though HLWW has needs,” Lundell said.

“The referendum is the only tool that HLWW has to bring itself closer to the statewide average in terms of funding. In the short-term, the referendum levy is the only way they can correct the issues they have – it’s so crucial the levy passes,” Lundell explained.

“Almost one-third of the state’s school districts are seeking referendums, which does say something about the lack of support in the legislature,” Lundell added.

What’s worse is that the legislature doesn’t fund districts equally, according to Lundell.

Depending upon where a student lives and the surrounding area’s property values, among other factors, the state allocates a certain amount of money per student, according to Ladd.

For example, in some metro districts, for every $1 the district pays, the state pays the district $2. For HLWW, that doesn’t happen, according to Ladd.

Because the HLWW School District is $300 per pupil below the state average in general education revenue, that number times 1,000 students equals a –$300,000 difference in dollars available to HLWW, than to a school operating at the state average.

Special education funding is a piece of many school districts’ budgets that has been increasing in cost.

Leslie Miller, director at Meeker and Wright Special Education Cooperative explained that the state has numerous mandates that are unfunded or underfunded. Special education is one of those mandates that the state requires of the districts.

School districts must educate and meet all the needs of special ed students, but the district must look locally to fund it, Miller said.

Miller explained that back when the legislation mandated special education, the legislature said they would fully fund it, but they never have.

In addition, because of technology and advancements in medicine, a lot more critical and high cost kids are in the school system than were 20 or more years ago, Miller explained.

Miller agrees that schools should educate and meet the needs of special ed students, but points out that it is creating a drain on many districts.

HLWW’s special education budget is currently experiencing a 12 percent increase, which, according to Ladd, is about the statewide average.

“Twelve percent of a $10 million budget is a lot of money,” Ladd said.

For more information about the levy referendum, you may:

• call the district office at (320) 543-3521.

• visit the district’s web site at www.hlww.k12/mn.us, click on “Operating Levy 2007.”

• contact a school board member; Dan Schaible, (320) 543-2075; Lori Custer, (320) 543-3033; Al Doering (763) 658-7040; Tom Hammer, (763) 238-9224; Charles Weber (320) 485-2566; Paul Weibel, (320) 485-4396; and Jamie Wiech, (320) 543-3067.

• call the Ehlers Property Tax Hotline at (651) 697-8500 or 800-552-1171, ask to speak to any member of the Education Team. Have your Payable 2008 Taxable Market Value or Parcel Identification Number available.

• e-mail mnschools@ehlers-inc.com.

Where to vote
The referendum vote will take place Tuesday, November 6. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the following locations.

Waverly area
Residents who live in the City of Waverly or Marysville orWoodland townships, Wright County may vote at Humphrey Elementary School.

Winsted area
Residents who live in the City of Winsted, or Winsted Township,McLeod County; or Hollywood Township, Carver County may vote at Winsted Elementary School.

Howard Lake area
Residents who live in the City of Howard Lake, or in Middleville,Victor, Albion or Stockholm townships, Wright County may vote at the HLWW High School.

You may register to vote at the polling place. You must have two forms of identification, including a MN Driver’s License, ID card or passport; an original bill for utilities, telephone or cable TV showing your address and due up to 30 days before or after Nov. 6.