Election 2018: School Funding

Both Minneapolis and Saint Paul are running a school funding levy referendum this year.

In Minneapolis, there are two questions:

Approval of School District Referendum Revenue Authorization

The Board of Special School District No. 1 (Minneapolis Public Schools) has proposed to increase its general education revenue by $490.00 per pupil. The proposed referendum revenue authorization would increase each year by the rate of inflation and be applicable for seven years beginning with taxes payable in 2019, unless otherwise revoked or reduced as provided by law.

Shall the increase in the revenue proposed by the board of Special School District No. 1 be approved?

AND:

Approval of School District Capital Project Levy Authorization

The Board of Special School District No. 1 (Minneapolis Public Schools) has proposed a capital project levy authorization in the amount of 2.249% times the net tax capacity of the school district to provide funds for the purchase, installation, and maintenance of software applications and technology equipment, and for training and directly related personnel costs. The proposed capital project levy authorization will raise approximately $12,000,000 for taxes payable in 2019, the first year it is to be levied, and would be authorized for seven years. The estimated total cost of the projects to be funded over that time period is approximately $84,000,000.

Shall the increase in the revenue proposed by the board of Special School District No. 1 be approved?

In St. Paul, there is one question:

Revoking Existing Operating Referendum Revenue Authorization; Approving New Authorization

The school board of Independent School District No. 625, Saint Paul Public Schools, has proposed to revoke the school district’s existing operating referendum revenue authorization of $704.52 per pupil and to replace that authorization with a new authorization of $1179.52 per pupil. The proposed referendum revenue authorization would increase each year by the rate of inflation and be applicable for ten years, beginning with taxes payable in 2019, unless otherwise revoked or reduced as provided by law.

Shall the school district’s existing operating referendum revenue authorization be revoked and the increase in revenue proposed by the school board of Independent School District No. 625, Saint Paul Public Schools, be approved?

Saint Paul has a Vote Yes site.

Minneapolis has a Vote Yes Twice site.

There does not appear to be any organized opposition to either initiative.

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Election 2016: Minneapolis School District Funding Referendum

Minneapolis is voting on whether to extend an existing property tax levy to increase the funding of the Minneapolis public schools.

The actual question reads:

School District Question Renewal of Expiring Referendum Revenue Authorization

The Board of Special School District No. 1 (Minneapolis Public Schools) has proposed to renew the school district’s existing referendum revenue authorization of $1,604.31 per pupil, which is scheduled to expire after taxes payable in 2016. The revenue will be used to manage class sizes and provide supportive services and activities for students. The proposed referendum revenue authorization would increase each year by the rate of inflation and be applicable for nine years, beginning with taxes payable in 2017, unless otherwise revoked or reduced as provided by law. Shall the increase in the revenue proposed by the board of Special School District No. 1 be approved?

BY VOTING “YES” ON THIS BALLOT QUESTION, YOU ARE VOTING TO EXTEND AN EXISTING PROPERTY TAX REFERENDUM THAT IS SCHEDULED TO EXPIRE.

So let’s start by talking about how school funding works in Minnesota. Unlike many states, we do the bulk of our school funding statewide, through our state income taxes. Districts receive money from the state based on the number of pupils they have. If you live in St. Paul but would like to send your kids to an Eagan school, you can do that as long as you’re willing to get them there — for the most part, you can send your kids to any public school in the state you’re willing to transport them to, although if a school is full up they can turn away the non-resident kids.

I’ve been looking for the information on the base funding per kid, how much comes from the state, how much comes from local property taxes, and how much comes from these levies, and I’m not finding anything that breaks it down in a straightforward way. Apparently the base funding is $5,831 per kid, but that gets adjusted up in all sorts of ways. As of a couple of years ago, Minneapolis and St. Paul were both spending about $14,000 per kid and at least one article I found said that about $11,000 of that came from the state.

One of the ways you can increase the amount the kids in your district get: pass a tax levy to collectively raise your own property taxes and give the schools more money. Which Minneapolis has faithfully done during the entire twenty years that I’ve lived in the Twin Cities.

 

This is actually a renewal of an existing levy, so if it passes, your taxes will not go up from this vote. (They’ll probably go up, because I think Minneapolis raised property taxes generally, but the amounts here will stay pretty much the same.) Money from this levy covers 13% of the Minneapolis Public Schools budget, and there’s a spreadsheet showing what each school gets, if you’re curious.

The number I really wanted to see is how much a typical homeowner contributes towards this funding each year. That information is in this PDF. If you own a house worth $250,000, you will pay about $315 toward the schools in 2016 (under the current levy), and you’ll pay $291 in 2017 under the proposed new levy. (I have no idea why that number is going down slightly given that this is a renewal of something that already exists? These numbers are estimates, anyway, but you get the general idea.) Obviously the amount you’d pay goes up or down depending on the value of the property you own. (And if you rent, you won’t pay it directly but like all property taxes it will likely get passed along in rent increases, though I’ll note that if the property taxes didn’t go up at all your rent would probably still go up if your landlord thought they could get more in rent.) The levy runs for nine years, after which they will presumably ask to renew it again.

There’s a website for the Vote Yes for Kids campaign. It’s pretty content-free. (The PDF I linked up above is a lot more helpful — so is this FAQ.) No one has set up a website campaigning against the levy, at least that I found.

I endorse a “Yes” vote, and I would vote for this if I lived in Minneapolis, because I always vote for these. Even though it annoyed the hell out of me that they claimed twice that they were going to use the money to lower class sizes and class sizes in Minneapolis stayed appallingly large. This time they’re saying that they use the money to “manage class sizes,” whatever the hell that means. (To be fair, after both my kids were through kindergarten, I think they lowered kindergarten sizes. And my kids aren’t in MPS anymore so I don’t know what class sizes are like these days.)