Voters increase taxes, raise school funding across Minnesota

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Voters across Minnesota resoundingly approved property tax increases to boost school funding in their districts during the 2018 midterm elections. Among the schools up for vote were Minneapolis and St. Paul public schools as well as Robbinsdale, Forest Lake and Mahtomedi.

The proposed levy referendums were in response to district complaints of state funding cuts, which forced schools to cut essential programming and consider staff reductions and school closures.

Minneapolis Public Schools

With record midterm voter turnout, 78 percent of voters approved a levy referendum to increase annual funding per student by $490. Another 72 percent approved a brand new levy to pay for existing technology, freeing up funds for other purposes. The approved levies will raise nearly $30 million per year in operating funds for the district and will increase taxes by about $8 a month for a homeowner with a $175K home.

“This new revenue is just part of our work to remain a strong, sustainable school district,” said Ed Graff, superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools, in a statement. “In the coming months, we will need you to continue to stand with us as we advocate for schools to receive the state and federal funding they deserve — especially for special education and English language services.”

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St. Paul Public Schools

Two-thirds of voters approved St. Paul Public Schools’ proposed 10-year levy to increase annual funding by $475 per student. With a previous $705 levy, St. Paul property owners now will pay $1,180 per student each year in special funding for the city’s public schools. The tax increase will cost the average homeowner an average of $135 per year.

The new levy raises more than $18 million per year for the school district to prevent cuts on existing programs and support implementation of the district’s proposed Achieves Strategic Plan.

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Robbinsdale Area Schools

Robbinsdale Area Schools voters approved an increase of funding by $515 per student for the district, which includes all of Robbinsdale, Crystal and New Hope, as well as parts of Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, Plymouth and Golden Valley. With two-thirds approval, the new levy will generate an additional $6 million in funding per year for the next 10 years.

“The outcome of this referendum — over 60 percent approval — just really shows us that the community is behind our district and supports the work we are doing,” said John Vento, Robbinsdale board chair.

The additional funding will help the district maintain programming, including Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate and arts programs, along with providing professional development for staff.

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Forest Lake Area Schools

More than half of voters in the Forest Lake Area Schools district approved a levy to boost annual per student spending by $825. The levy will add an additional $225 per year tax increase to a homeowner of a $200,000 home.

The suburban district, which lies about 30 miles north of the Twin Cities, plans to reduce average class sizes, raise teaching salaries, increase support programs for struggling youth, expand gifted and accelerated learning, and restore access to after-school activities.

The approval comes a year after voters failed to pass a previous levy increase of $750 last year. The district said if the new levy had not been approved, it would have considered combining and closing one or more elementary schools.

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Fifty-five percent of voters in Mahtomedi approved to raise their annual per student levy with a three-tiered increase. The first increase, in 2019, will raise the current levy by $276, going from $744 per student to $1,020. In 2022, the levy will increase to $1,295 and, from 2025-2028, it will increase to $1,570. The 2019 tax increase will cost a homeowner of a $350,000 home $159 per year in the first year, effectively splitting the overall $477 tax into three smaller tax impact changes.

The increased levy will be used to help reduce class size and support academic programming.

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Information provided by Minneapolis, St. Paul, Robbinsdale, Forest Lake Area and Mahtomedi public school districts