July 20, 2021
Shakopee Public Schools to Bring Operating Levy to Voters on Nov. 2
School Board Unanimously Approves Special Election for Shakopee Community
In an effort to address the financial challenges continuing to impact Shakopee Public Schools, the School Board, during the July 19th school board business meeting, unanimously approved a special election to bring an operating levy before the voters on November 2, 2021. Shakopee is the only school district in the metro area without a voter approved operating levy.
The November 2 special election follows an attempt at a similar operating levy last November. On November 3, 2020, 12,697 persons voted no on the $1000 per pupil levy question, and 10,776 persons voted yes. When the operating levy was not approved by the voters last November, the district completed $7.45M in budget cuts across the district. These cuts started with $2,050,000 in permanent budget cuts intentionally avoiding classroom teaching positions. When the levy failed, the district then made an additional $5.4 million in cuts, including 52 classroom teaching positions. Due to these budget cuts, class sizes will be larger in all grades (K-12) in the coming school year.
“I’ve lived and worked in Shakopee for a little more than two and one half years. Our school district has a very unique financial history, one in which the school district’s responsibility to be a trusting partner with the community was badly damaged and broken,” shares Mike Redmond, Shakopee Public Schools Superintendent. “There’s no road map for moving forward in such a situation. What I do know is that the Shakopee Schools team and I will always give our best effort to work hard, to serve our students, families and communities as best we can. It is also my unequivocal expectation that every employee of our school district, including the superintendent, especially the superintendent, will do things the right way and work diligently to continue to rebuild, step-by-step and day-by-day, the trust of this incredible community,” affirms Redmond. “Due to the recent $7.5 million in budget cuts, our school district’s budget is balanced for the next two school years. However, due to the long term structural imbalance of our budget, we have significant budget shortfalls looming in the 2023-24 school year and the years that follow. To tackle these structural deficits, our community has a choice between two paths moving forward: We can make large budget cuts every two or three years, starting with a projected cut of $5.082 million prior to the 2023-24 school year, or we can approve ongoing operating revenue with a voter approved operating levy to provide the necessary funding for the district,” notes Redmond.
Over the past two years, the current School Board has worked to find the best way to tackle the financial challenges facing the school district. Most recently, they solicited information from the community via a phone survey that was conducted by a third-party in May. This survey asked registered voters questions about the district’s financial challenges and overall performance. All members of the community were also given the opportunity to provide online feedback in late June/early July to questions very similar to those asked in the formal phone survey. The information from each of these activities was used to help the School Board, on behalf of the community, to make the decision to bring an operating levy before the voters on November 2.
“The school board did not take this decision lightly. We understand the impact this operating levy request will have on our community and those within the district,” states Kristi Peterson, Shakopee Public Schools Board Chair. “However, I also see first-hand how we’ve cut extremely deep for the upcoming school year and cannot be the district we are today, nor grow, without addressing our ongoing deficit. Schools are a partnership with the community. One can’t thrive without the other. The request for a voter-approved operating levy will allow our district to maintain our incredible staff and educational experience while also allowing class sizes and teaching positions to be restored to manageable levels.”
There will be two questions on the November 2, 2021 ballot. The first question will request $866 per pupil in funding. The second question will request an additional $400 per pupil. Question one must pass for question two to apply. In other words, if question one fails, question two automatically fails regardless of the vote count. The amount noted on the ballot in each question is not the amount of a property owner’s tax increase but rather a calculation of dollars needed per pupil. A tax calculator and property owner tax impact information will be provided for residents prior to absentee voting and November 2. An informational presentation provided to the school board on July 19 by Superintendent Redmond and Director of Finance, Bill Menozzi, that further outlines the levy request can be found here.
The special election will be held from 7am-8pm at West Middle School, 200 10th Ave E, Shakopee, on Tuesday, November 2, 2021.
Commentary - School Board Chair
July 21, 2021: Keeping community and student best interests in mind