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Westonka School Board Approves November Referendum
August 20, 2019 — At its regular meeting Monday night, Aug. 19, the Westonka School Board unanimously voted to move forward this fall with an operating levy referendum. On Nov. 5, 2019, Westonka residents will be asked to vote on a revoke and replace levy with a tiered payment structure. The district currently has three voter-approved operating levies in place, totaling $1,096 per pupil. These will be replaced with a single, 10-year levy with a two-step increase.
Voter-approved operating levies provide funding for day-to-day school and district operating expenses, including teacher salaries, transportation costs, utilities, classroom supplies and other supports to student learning. According to Westonka Superintendent Kevin Borg, these funds have been crucial for the Westonka School District, as state funding has failed to keep up with inflation over the last decade, and unfunded federal and state mandates divert funds from other needed programming.
"Westonka makes annual budget reductions to help close this funding gap; however, even with reductions and enrollment growth, the past two years the district has dipped into its fund reserve to protect class sizes and programs," Borg said. "Using an 'emergency fund' to balance the budget is simply not sustainable.”
"Additionally, the enrollment growth the district has relied on for revenue in recent years is projected to level off in 2023,” Borg added. “Without a long-term funding solution, significant reductions impacting student learning will be required."
The new levy will provide 10 years of stable funds needed for growth and continuous improvement. The levy will be implemented in two steps and will adjust for inflation, providing long-term revenue and lessening the tax impact for residents. Instead of asking for a larger increase up front, the new levy accesses funds only as they are needed by the district.
If the levy passes, the district’s current levy authority will increase to $1,446 per pupil for taxes payable 2020 (generating approximately $1 million in additional revenue) and to $1,926 for taxes payable 2024 (generating an additional $1 million). This will gradually bring Westonka’s per pupil funding closer to that of neighboring school districts Orono and Minnetonka.
If the referendum is approved, the average homeowner ($377,000 home) will see a tax increase of $7.50 per month for taxes payable 2020 and an increase of $6.50 per month for taxes payable 2024. Without approval, the district is projected to need $750,000 in reductions for 2020-2021.
Westonka Public Schools has not asked for an increase to its operating levy in more than 10 years, with the last increase coming in 2007. If the new levy is approved in 2019, Westonka will continue to have the lowest total school taxes in Hennepin County.
More information about the operating levy referendum is available at www.westonka.k12.mn.us/referendum.