LAKEVILLE, Minn. - Independent School District 194 is hoping their taxpayers will finally agree to provide new revenue to the cash-strapped schools. There is a $5.6 million referendum on the November 5th ballot.
The district is trying to sell its constituents on raising their taxes to provide a $540 per pupil increase in operating funds. Similar requests failed in 2010 and 2007. The last time a new revenue referendum passed in Lakeville was in 2003.
"Basically, revenues have not kept up with the cost of living, with expenditures for our district," said Superintendent Lisa Snyder, Ed.D. "For the last 7 years, we have continued to have a budget shortfall every biennium."
Snyder blamed declining enrollment in the district, which spreads across the metropolitan area southtowns, resulting in less funding from the state and the troubled economy, which cut into tax revenue from property values.
"We were well over 11,000 students some years back and now we are down to about 10,800," said Snyder. "We are graduating 900 students (each year) and our incoming kindergarten classes are around 650."
The district website offers information including that passage of the referendum would mean about a $167 annual tax increase for a $230,000 home. According to district officials, failure of the referendum to pass would likely result in cuts to staff and enlarged class sizes, which are already the largest in the 20 district metro area.
Presently, classes in the district's eight elementary schools can be as large as 38 students per teacher. Classes in the district's two senior high schools can be as large as 50 students.
Snyder insisted the district has been tightening their belts for years. She said $30 million has been trimmed from the budget since 2007. However, the annual budget shortfall is now approximately $4 million.
District 194 Business Services Executive Director Michael Baumann said it has been a challenge year-to-year. "We have been in a constant cycle of budget shortfall and doing reductions that have an impact on the organization, our students and families."