School District 197 will have levy referendum on November ballot

Eight years after it was first approved by voters, the West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan Area School District is asking residents to renew an expiring operating levy. If passed, the levy will extend another 10 years.

Superintendent Nancy Allen-Mastro said while the levy doesn’t expire until 2017, the school board decided to seek renewal this year.

The levy generates $5.2 million annually. Allen-Mastro said there is an inflationary increase built in. This means the property-tax levy has been allowed to keep pace with inflation. 

Since 2007,the levy increased by 7.8 percent with inflation. Typically, there is an inflationary increase of 1 to 2 percent a year, which is determined by the Minnesota Department of Education.

If approved, the renewal would extend the levy to 2027.

This money goes into the district’s general fund to cover operating expenses. It is not tagged for any specific thing. The $5.2 million covers about 8 percent of District 197’s annual operating budget.

“This is equivalent to basically operating one of our middle schools for a year,” Allen-Mastro said to illustrate how much the money the operating levy produces.

Allen-Mastro said the levy has made significant differences in the district. 

Prior to its passage in 2007, she said the district was not in a good place financially. She explained District 197 was making cuts every year, and as a result enrollment was declining. Things were “cut to the bone.” 

Since the levy was adopted in 2007, she said the district is in a more stable financial situation and is able to reinvest in programs that are vital to the district, things that would not be possible without the operating levy.

Because the district isn’t asking for new money, Allen-Mastro said the impact on property taxes would be minimal. She predicted property owners “wouldn’t notice it because they’re already paying it.” More information on the levy can be found at www.isd197.org/levy.

 

Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com

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