In the coming years, Hopkins Public Schools will have to tackle many complex issues. Patch asked this year’s School Board candidates about how they’d handle some of the major issues facing the district.
Today’s question is:
- What is the appropriate role for an operating levy in a school district’s budget?
Voters want to see their taxes put to good use in the classroom, doing things like maintaining reasonable class sizes and boosting student achievement. New programs can also be implemented using levy dollars, as long as the funding is sustainable for the long term. Lastly, the levy helps the district maintain a positive financial outlook (and stay out of statutory operating debt) when a responsible budget is adopted. Strong schools boost property values, so this can be a win-win for taxpayers when managed properly.
The operating levy is a part of the overall school funding. Approximately 60% of our funds for operations come from the state and 30% from local funding and 10% from other sources. Without the local operating levy, our schools would face substantial cutbacks and loss of programs. The parameters for basic school funding sources is set by the state. School boards must work within the state and
federal laws to provide the best educational opportunities possible for students.
This candidate did not submit a response.
To me, everything needs to be tied to academic performance. I should evaluate ROI on levy. For new referendum, I’d rather first increase the efficient use of the existing funding before reaching out for more.
In this day and age, budgets are tight all around, and unfortunately, operating levies have become the norm for school districts. Currently, 23% of the Hopkins School District's operating budget comes from the operating levy. I've personally watched the budget be pared down over the years, and realized any additional cuts would likely mean staff reductions on an already tapped group of outstanding staff around the district. As a part of my campaign, I have vowed not to ask for more than is needed, but to give back more than expected. However, if we want to have a successful educational system that this community can be proud of, we need to strike that balance between need and want.
It is a sad fact that operating levies are the norm for Minnesota school districts. If state funding were predictable and consistently adequate, keeping up with inflation, districts wouldn’t need to rely so heavily on operating levies. But the reality is that state funding is not consistent, predictable, nor adequate. We may have had a fairly good 2013 legislative session, but look at the ten years prior to that and you’ll see that funding has been relatively flat for the past decade and beyond. Operating levies have provided funds to maintain quality programs in our schools, rather than having to make deep cuts. We are incredibly grateful to our community for their past support of our operating levy requests.