Archive for the ‘Referendum’ Category

Levy Fails in Osseo

November 17, 2012

From the Sun Post;

When the numbers came in, voters had narrowly rejected both proposed levies, and only 83 votes separated the school board candidates in third and fourth place. That’s less than a tenth of a percent difference.

Because voters rejected both proposed levies on the ballot, the school district expects to cut about $14 million from the budget over the next two years. That includes $2 million of reductions to “align staffing with enrollment” that were projected to occur regardless of the election’s outcome.

“One of the things that’s frustrating about this is that our expectations for our work and the accomplishments of our students doesn’t change,” Supt. Kate Maguire said.

One of the levies voters rejected was a 5-year operating levy that would have provided $9 million per year. The other was a 10-year technology levy that would have raised $5 million per year. The operating levy received 33,792 “yes” votes, or 49.9 percent and 33,908 “no” votes, or 50.1 percent. That’s a difference of 116 votes.

The technology levy garnered 32,470 votes in favor, or 48.3 percent, and 34,757 votes against, or 51.7 percent. The difference was 2,287 votes. “It’s heartbreakingly close,” Maguire said. “Certainly I’m disappointed, and I’m disappointed because I know what it means. We’ve been here before. And I know the good results we’re getting for students in our community. … It’s going to be difficult to sustain that progress with fewer and fewer (staff members).”

In spite of the disappointment, Maguire said she’s grateful to everyone who supported the levies and worked to inform others. The district has estimated cuts will result in the loss of the equivalent of about 200 full-time positions.

According to Maguire, the advisory committee that looks at long-range financial planning has already worked to identify essential services, such as those required by law. In November and December the school board will begin having work sessions to consider the budget. The board will provide direction to staff, and the district will begin identifying specific areas for reductions in next year’s budget.

Full Article

Edina Asks for Two Levies

July 21, 2011

Think we are overtaxed in Robbinsdale?  Check out what the Edina school district is asking for;

From the Sun Post;

Edina taxpayers will be asked to approve a $45 million technology referendum this fall.

The Edina School Board voted 6-0, member Idith Almog absent, Monday, July 18, to place the capital project levy on the Nov. 8 general election ballot, as well as a renewal of its general operating levy.

Wow, look at all that dissent on their school board!  Isn’t it amazing how all school board members seem to always reach the same conclusion.

The technology levy would collect $4.5 million annually for the next 10 years. It would more than quadruple the existing taxpayer levy for technology, which expires in 2012.  Currently, Edina collects about $1 million a year with its technology levy. That provides approximately $122 per pupil, falling behind several area districts.

Quadruple the levy?  Quadruple!

Boardmember Peyton Robb said the increase would help the district remain competitive.  “It’s not something that we take lightly. It’s very well thought out,” he said.

Yes, isn’t every tax increase well thought out.

According to the district, Edina’s existing technology referendum is less than measures in Hopkins, Minnetonka, Eden Prairie, Wayzata, St. Louis Park and Bloomington districts. At the top of that group, Hopkins collects $719 per pupil each year. At the bottom, Bloomington collects $273.

Really?  Is this a spending contest?

The renewal and increase would bring Edina’s per pupil amount to $549. That would include about $600,000 a year in capital expenses, as well as $3.9 million a year for maintenance, staff training, software and server enhancements.  If approved by voters, the estimated impact on an average $400,000 home in Edina would be $220 a year, an increase of $173 from the current $48 collected for technology.

And when that home is worth $300,000 is a few years the tax will go down too right?

The increased referendum would also free up general fund dollars now being spent on technology for other uses. While the district collects $1 million a year in taxes for technology, it actually spends closer to $3.3 million through a combination of the referendum, capital and general funds.  Also up for renewal is the district’s $400 per pupil operating referendum, currently at the maximum amount allowed by the state. It would provide about $3 million a year for the next 10 years if approved by voters. It would continue to have a $158 annual impact on a $400,000 home in Edina.

Supt. Ric Dressen said the district would provide more specifics on the measures leading up to the November election.

“We have a full plan we’ll roll out in August to share information with community,” he said.

More specifics later?  Shouldn’t you have the specifics before you ask for the money?

Tea Parties Clash With School Boards

April 27, 2011

Here is an interesting article from the Wall Street Journal;

YORK, Pa.—Trying to plug a $3.8 million budget gap, the York Suburban School District, in the rolling hills of southern Pennsylvania, is seeking to raise property taxes by 1.4%.  No way, says Nick Pandelidis, founder of the York Suburban Citizens for Responsible Government, a tea-party offshoot, of the plan that would boost the tax on a median-priced home of $157,685 by $44 a year to $3,225.  “No more property-tax increases!” the 52-year-old orthopedic surgeon implored as the group met recently at a local hospital’s community room. “If you don’t starve the system, you won’t make it change.”

Fresh from victories on the national stage last year, many local tea-party activist groups took their passion for limited government and less spending back to their hometowns, and to showdowns with teacher unions over pay in some cases. Now, amid school-board elections and local budgeting, they are starting to see results—and resistance.  In its budget proposal for the 2011-12 fiscal year, the York district has already axed noontime buses for half-day kindergarten kids, halved money for teaching supplies and raised the fees for driver education to $300 per student from $50.  District parent Sarah Reinecker told the school board she would be willing to pay more taxes. “Starving education is the last thing that makes long-term economic sense,” she said.

Legions of tea partiers continue to focus on the federal budget and debt ceiling. But many are following the strategy of other rising political movements, such as the Christian Coalition in the 1990s, and seeking representation on school boards. They are flooding this spring’s board elections, and creating an unusually long lineup of candidates in places like York County. Dr. Pandelidis’s group is fielding five candidates in May’s election and hopes to win a majority on the nine-member board.

From Lisbon, Maine, to Rockford, Ill., tea-party groups are arguing, sometimes successfully, against more property taxes, which in many communities largely go to public education. They say schools already spend too much on extras unrelated to core learning and that staffs are bloated, and they challenge the idea that smaller class size equals better instruction.  Schools are under the microscope on every issue. Members of the Maine Tea Party attended a recent town meeting on the school budget in Lisbon to protest a budget proposal that could raise property taxes to deal with a shortfall. Tea partier and district parent Thomas Barry, 51, said one local school had drafty windows, forcing the school to keep the heat too high.

“Two weeks ago, I went into the school to get report cards, and it was 90 degrees inside,” he said. “I was peeling off clothes left and right.”  School districts say they are already cutting deeply and need more help from taxpayers. The York Suburban district gets just 13% of its revenue from state and federal funding; the rest comes from local property taxes, and state aid could decline further under budget cuts proposed by Pennsylvania’s new Republican governor, Tom Corbett.  “It’s like they are saying: Cut at any cost—we don’t care about the service level and how it’s affected,” said Dennis Younkin, finance director for the York Suburban school district.

The Peoples Tea Party of Jacksonville, Fla., beat back a proposed increase in teacher pay. After learning in February that the Clay County school board planned to raise salaries 1.5%, the group urged supporters to call school-board officials and attend the meeting where the raise was to be considered.  “A lot of people are laid off. Why would the teachers look at this and think it’s OK?” said retiree Mavis Caplinger, co-founder of the Peoples Tea Party.

The board voted 4-1 against its own proposal, which had come after months of negotiations with teachers. Board chairman Frank Farrell said he worried that the budget of Florida’s Republican governor, Rick Scott, which contained education cuts, would make the raises unaffordable. He said he wasn’t influenced by the tea party.  “Baloney. I know it had an influence,” said Clay County Superintendent Ben Wortham. He said the proposed contract contained union concessions that would have resulted in annual savings offsetting much of the pay increase.

In Rockford, Ill., on the other hand, local tea-party coordinator David Hale says the battle between Wisconsin’s governor and public employees has energized teachers in Rockford, about 20 miles south of the Wisconsin border, and created an “uphill battle” for his group.  In school-board elections in early April, none of the candidates endorsed by the Rockford Tea Party won, while two of three candidates endorsed by the teachers’ union did—even though the tea party’s pre-election media blitz linked property taxes to teacher pay the party said was exorbitant.  “I honestly believe people don’t buy that story,” said Karen Bieschke, of the local teachers union. “They don’t see anyone getting rich being a teacher.”

In Pennsylvania, the York 9-12 Patriots has a dozen candidates running for school boards, and has formed local offshoots, such as Dr. Pandelidis’s group, to monitor local budgets. Next, reversing the movement from the federal to the local level, they plan to scrutinize state and federal school spending.  At a recent meeting, York 9-12 members ticked off their list of school waste: too much technology; too many teacher aides; federally subsidized breakfasts. “Parents should feed them at home. No one pays for my children to eat,” said group founder Lee Ann Burkholder, who home-schools her children.

Dr. Pandelidis argues that more spending doesn’t lead to better results. While per-pupil spending has steadily risen, 11th-grade math and reading scores fell last year, he notes. District officials say that the scores don’t reflect the entire student body, but that they are reviewing the 11th-grade curriculum.Dr. Pandelidis recently gave the board a petition with 500 signatures opposing any property-tax increase. The board had been weighing a 4% increase and backed down to 1.4% “because of the political climate,” says Mr. Younkin, the finance director.

Sounds like this battle is here to stay!

RSIS or STEM Part 1

January 23, 2011

With all the discussions about the possibility of re-opening Pilgram Lane Elementary or Olson Elementary for a magnet school (either expanding Spanish Immersion or creating a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), we’ve been pondering what to write about this.  The Sun Post did an interesting article summarizing the options for the district from a presentation on December 13.  Here is a part of the article;

– RSIS expansion beginning in 2011-12 with kindergarten at the current Sunny Hollow site, and 50 percent of the expansion seats (33 of the 198 total) reserved for students open-enrolling.

– RSIS expansion beginning in 2012-13 at Olson with kindergarten and first grade, and with 50 percent of seats at each grade level (33 of 198 seats per grade level, with both sites combined) reserved for students open-enrolling.

– RSIS expansion beginning in 2012-13 at Olson with kindergarten and first grade, and with one-third of seats at each grade level (22 of 198 seats per grade level, with both sites combined) reserved for students open-enrolling.

– Combination alternative of RSIS expansion at Olson as well as expansion of Spanish immersion and/or dual Spanish immersion program at selected sites (school within a school).

– STEM magnet school at Olson with 50 percent of seats reserved for students open-enrolling and with fourth and fifth grade sections full beginning in 2013-14 and 2014-15.

– STEM magnet school at Olson with one-third of the seats reserved for students open-enrolling and with fourth and fifth grade sections full beginning in 2013-14 and 2014-15.

Though we think he is a supporter of a new magnet school, Superintendent Dr. Aldo Sicoli cautioned the school board about a possible expansion;

“Do we want to commit to something we would start in one building and move it to another without knowing about the budget?” Sicoli said. “We don’t want to create something that’s not in the financial best interest of the district. We need to look at it from all sides. Anytime we open a new building, it costs money. It’s easier to bring in students if you have a building with space.”  The board also needs to consider the political reality of saving 50 percent of the seats for non-residents, Sicoli said.

Now we are not universally opposed to magnet schools in general but we have some serious reservations about this expansion, not the least of which is who and how we will pay for improvements on these buildings (we’ll get into that in a future article).  The board makes a big deal about wanting to keep kids here and using a magnet program as an idea.  The Sun Post reported the following;

One of the issues the district is addressing is how to attract and bring back resident students who have left to attend classes in other districts.  Last year more than 100 families failed to be chosen in the lottery for RSIS, and 52 percent of them subsequently left the district.

So let us get this straight; about half of the families who didn’t get into RSIS left the district but the district wants to “reserve seats” for kids who don’t live here!  How will that work?  What does the district think will happen if open enrolled kids get priority over kids who live here?  Does anyone think these families will stay then?  It seems to not make sense.

If RSIS is expanded or if a STEM program is adopted, then at minimum we call for NO SPECIAL PROVISIONS.  No automatics for siblings, no automatics for the children of staff members, no affirmative action, and no special spots for kids who don’t live here.  At least then it will be a fair lottery.

Then again, maybe the better idea is to stop trying to be everything to everyone and PAR DOWN and offer the same educational opportunities to all of our students.  Should getting a better education depend on where you live ,or if your name gets picked in a lottery, or if you meet some other special provision?  Let’s give EVERYONE equal opportunity!

District Sets the Levy

December 13, 2010

From the District’s website

The Robbinsdale Area School Board adopted the final 2011 property tax levy at its December 6 meeting following a public Truth-in-Taxation hearing. The $54.3 million levy, payable in 2011, will be used to finance a portion of the operations of the district for the 2011-2012 school year. Property taxes in 2011 will make up approximately a third of the district’s total revenue.

Now for the stuff that really matters to us….

The levy represents a $1.25 million (2.4 percent) increase over the previous year’s levy, and is $1.2 million less than the proposed levy adopted by the board in October.

So just like our cities and our counties, our home values go down and our taxes go up.  But, since they could have levied $1.2 million more they probably think we should thank them.

“For the second year in a row, the board chose to levy less than the maximum allowed by the state,” said Lonnie Smith, executive director of business services, “We recognize the challenges taxpayers face in our current economic situation. This decision helps minimize the impact to property owners this year.”

All right!  Like we said it’s only a small increase!  We have to pay those unions!

Now listen to what the District claims the impact of this tax hike is;

While the total levy amount will increase slightly, individual homeowner property taxes could increase by a greater percentage. In most cases, property owners will see a decrease in the tax levy from the voter approved referendum due to estimated lower enrollment. Other local school levies are likely to increase since the overall levy is increasing and because a decline in property values means the rates on all properties must increase in order to collect the same amount of revenue.

What?  Why can’t anyone in government simply admit that they are take more and more and more in taxes every year and it really has nothing to do with the “value” of our homes?


281 CARE Has Day in Court

November 17, 2010

Looks like the three-year-long legal battle between 281 CARE and the Robbinsdale School District is finally coming to a head in court.  Here is some information on the what and where;

281 CARE Committee et al v. Ross Arneson et al, Court File No. 10-1558
November 18, 2010 at 9:00 am
U.S. Court House, 316 North Roberts Street, St. Paul, MN

Before a Three Judge Panel, will hear oral arguments on this Federal Appeals Court case.

We’ll keep you posted on what happens and see if the court upholds free speech rights for everyone!

Questions for Candidates

October 24, 2010

The District 281 Legislative Action Coalition released a sample of questions that questions that may be asked at Tuesday’s debate.  We are going to have some fun with this and answer some of these questions as though WE are the candidate…

1. In 1997 Minnesota’s per pupil education spending was 8 percent above the national average. By 2007 Minnesota’s per pupil spending had dropped to 1.3 percent below the national average. What will you do to restore Minnesota’s historic commitment to education?

Answer: Talk about a misleading question…first off does “Minnesota’s spending” include local spending as well?  The state’s formula was reworked in the 2001, how is that factored into to the equation?  Also public school enrollment has decreased in Minnesota over the past ten years so are these figures a per pupil equation or as a percentage of the budget?  Sounds like a great question for a public school apologist.  Either way I’m sure it’s Pawlenty’s fault.

2. Do you support vouchers or expanded taxpayer subsidies for non-public schools?

Answer: Of course, why does it matter where a kid goes to school if “getting a great education” is what matters?

3. What strategies and investments will you support to ensure all children enter kindergarten
prepared to learn?

Answer: Investments? I’m not sure there is any way possible to ensure that “all children enter kindergarten prepared to learn.”  More nanny state anyone?

4. In recent years legislation has been proposed that would create a mandatory statewide health insurance pool for all school district employees. Do you support this proposed new mandate?

Answer: No, mandates make St. Paul look good at the expense of the locals.  The real solution is get the government out of the health care business and out of tenure and defined pensions.

5. Do you support granting levy authority to locally elected school boards to help stabilize education funding?

Answer: No, not without a public vote.  It’s OUR MONEY not theirs.

6. Do you support allowing locally elected school boards to renew an existing operating referendum by a majority vote of the school board after a public hearing?

Answer: HELL NO!!!!!!  Don’t let these people take away your right to vote!!!!

7. The February budget forecast projects that the state is facing a $5.6 billion budget shortfall in the 2012-13 biennium. How do you propose to balance the budget? Are there specific spending cuts or tax increases you will support to bring the budget into balance?

Answer: Tax increases?  I thought Ann Rest called it “revenue enhancement?”  Simple. Go to zero based budgeting, set priorities, and fund what is needed.  No more automatic increases to create phantom deficits!

8. Unlike many states, Minnesota’s education funding formula does not recognize the higher cost of labor in the metropolitan area. Metropolitan school districts face significantly higher labor costs than their rural counterparts. Do you support amending the education funding formula so it recognizes labor cost differentials?

Answer: No, kids should be treated equally across the board.

9. The state and federal governments fall woefully short of funding special education mandates. In the coming year, Minnesota school districts will be forced to spend over $500 million of funds meant for regular classroom instruction on mandated special education programs. Will you support fully funding the state special education formula?

Answer: Now here’s a question made for public school apologists.  Who would be against special education kids right?  If we get out of tenure and defined pensions and things like that we will HAVE MORE dough to spend on special education and won’t have to raise anyone’s taxes!

10. Will you be willing to vote against your caucus’ position if it is in the best interest of your local school district(s)?

Answer: Of course, but what exactly is RAS 281’s best interest?

11. Every year the education bill is the last or one of the last bills to be passed. Last year the legislature failed to pass an omnibus education bill at all. Will you be willing to demand that the education bill be the first budget bill passed in 2011?

Answer: How about if the majority party proposes a budget before the end of May?  It’s a but hard to talk about K-12 when we have no overall budget proposal.

12. If elected/re-elected, how will you work with your local school districts to address critical education funding and policy issues?

Answer: Listen to them; no more mandates and simply the formula!

Let’s see what the candidates say….

Committee Anyone?

August 6, 2010

Back at the May 3rd school board meeting Superintendent Aldo Sicoli announced that there are a whopping SIX committees to deal with the budget.  Three deal with revenue and three deal with expenditures.  Hmm…here is some advice to the school board and Dr. Sicoli…..

If the school board wants to “enhance revenue” or as we call it “extort more tax dollars” they have three options

  1. Get an increase from the state or the federal government (by the way that is still our money).
  2. Retain more of our own students….currently 28% of district age kids go to a school outside of 281.
  3. Import more kids from other districts (which will probably continue to drive more of our own kids out).

There! I’ve solved the “revenue enhancement” problem in 30 seconds.  So why to we need three committees to do this?  Will one committee do?

As far as dealing with expenditures, I’ll say it again and again and again until this school boards gets this; It doesn’t matter what or where we “cut” if we keep giving the employees more than we are getting in funding!  If we get a 1% increase in funding, we can’t give the employees a 2% increase.  You’d think we’d have learned from General Motors.  Either the Board doesn’t understand this or they figure we aren’t smart enough to understand it.

Though we think Dr. Sicoli has done a much better job than Stan Mack at involving the public, and this may be part of Sicoli’s community outreach, though again, one committee on each will do and don’t we have a financial advisory committee?  What is their job?  We, however, take a REAL CYNICAL view of this and we suspect this may be part of creating a doomsday scenario to justify another referendum.  Don’t laugh, folks.  Our current referendum runs through 2015 but this district passed a 10 year referendum in 2001 and was back for more money in 2007 (and considered coming to us in 2005).

By the way realize that school funding isn’t going up with inflation.  We all know that.  I can also tell you that our wages aren’t going up with inflation either and I assure you I can’t levy my boss.  Our home values are going down while are property taxes keep going up.  This district has passed 37 years worth of referendums since 1990.  Hennepin county has raised taxes 30 of the past 31 years.  Minnesota is one the highest taxed states in the country and we have candidates for governor (we won’t mention their names, if they want their names mentioned they can pay us like they do the TV networks), who want to raise taxes further.  How many times can we go to the well?

Maybe we are totally wrong here.  Maybe there is no sinister motive.  We are just beginning to brace for yet another referendum or the possibility that St. Paul may take away our right to a referendum and insulate public education from economic forces.  We’ll keep you posted on any finding by the committees or if anyone has information on them, feel free to comment.

Talking 281

June 29, 2010

Please tune in to the Andrew Richter Show on Thursday, July 8 on Comcast channel 19 at 6 pm.  Vicki Lechelt once again serves as the guest host.  Joining her is divestiture committee member Ron Stoffel and 2009 school board candidate and author Andrew Richter.  The three of them discuss the  district’s back door referendum (sorry alternative funding), what the district is planning to do with their surplus property, the switch to even year elections, and the overall budget situation.  The show will replay on July 9 at 2 am and 10 am.  The show will re-air on July 15 at 6 pm and replay on July 16 at 2 am and 10 am also on channel 19.

Discussing ISD 281 and School Choice

April 1, 2010

Check out the Andrew Richter Show on Thursday April 8, channel 19 at 6 pm.  Vicki Lechelt is the guest  host with special guests 2009 school board candidate Andrew Richter and author Jerry Lindberg.  The three of them will discuss the board’s plan to back-door a referendum to fix up Northport and Lakeview, give the latest details on the employee contracts, and let you in on what is going on at the state capitol, namely HF 3699 and HF 3063.  They will also explain the benefits of school vouchers, tax credits, and more competition as opposed to Big Education’s MORE MONEY mantra.  The show will be replayed on Friday April 9 at 2 am and 10 am.  It will also air again the following week on April 15 at 6 pm and April 16 at 2 am and 10 am.  All shows will be on Comcast  channel 19.