What happens if the bond fails on Election Day?
Without the funding a bond would provide, schools will continue to experience crowded schools and stressed capacity without room for relief. The District might have to consider portable space solutions like trailers. Neighbors United believes unsightly trailers are not a sustainable solution to overcrowding and that they would raise a whole new set of security issues at schools.
Would a successful bond lower class sizes?
No. Lowering class sizes would require hiring more teachers. Bonds do not provide money for operational expenses such as teacher salaries. Bonds raise money that can only be used for new construction or additions to school buildings.
Will the bond address all of the District’s facilities challenges?
No. Last spring, the facilities task force concluded its work by identifying a series of improvement recommendations across the District that totaled $252 million. Out of respect for residents’ tax tolerance, the District prioritized the most pressing needs across all schools. That totals $165 million. That means this bond will not resolve all of our facilities challenges. Identified recommendations that are not addressed with the bond proposal will continue to be kept in planning discussions. These could get addressed in the future through future School Board efforts. These include:
- Additional parking
- Elementary performance spaces
- Flexible STEAM labs
Parent drop-off spaces not related to safety
What does the District do to maintain its facilities?
Our district has a 10-year facilities maintenance plan, and it spends about $3 million a year on regular, ongoing maintenance such as replacing roofs, or repairing parking lots.
The District used to say enrollment was declining. Now it’s increasing. Which is it?
Both are correct. In response to a trend of declining enrollment in the early 2000s, Mounds View worked with a former state demographer who correctly projected declines would continue. After closing two schools and welcoming non-resident enrollment, the District was right-sized for a decade. When an enrollment increase trend was observed 10 years later, the demographer again correctly projected that our new reality would be strong resident enrollment growth for some time. Over the decades of a school district’s life, such variances are typical. Both trends require flexible and prudent decision-making responses.
Is non-resident enrollment to blame for rising enrollment?
No. The enrollment growth already experienced and projected is related to resident enrollment, not non-residents. Non-residents currently comprise only 11 percent of total enrollment and is concentrated in the secondary schools. As these older students age and graduate, the overall percent of non-resident enrollment will naturally decline. By the time the construction of any new facilities would be completed, the overall percentage of non-resident enrollment will be significantly less than today.
Is the District still accepting new non-resident students?
No. Years ago, the Board closed enrollment to new non-resident students in many schools. Today, enrollment has been closed in all schools to new non-resident students for the 2016-17 school year and will likely remain closed for the foreseeable future.
Why not remove open enrollment students to create space for resident students?
Currently enrolled non-residents cannot be removed from schools, simply to make room for resident students. Open enrollment is a state-mandated process that guarantees enrollment in a district through graduation for nonresident students who are accepted unless they are habitually truant and at least 16 years old. The state requires every school district to enroll a small, minimum percent of non-residents. In Mounds View’s case, the District can fulfill this obligation simply by enrolling siblings who can enter through non-resident sibling preference agreements. For many years now, Mounds View has accepted only the minimum number of open enrollments as required by the state.
What if resident enrollment projections don’t result in the increases expected in the future?
The facilities task force recommended that all schools should be designed to be filled to 85 – 90 percent of capacity. Having extra flexible use space would support the District’s personalized instructional model. Also, the District can reverse its open enrollment decision and again allow open enrollment to non-residents.
Why not build a new school on the TCAAP land in Arden Hills?
The District is experiencing enrollment growth across all schools. Adding capacity throughout the District is needed. By itself, the future development area of Rice Creek Commons will not result in enough sustained elementary enrollment to warrant the construction of a new elementary school. Also, to efficiently occupy a new elementary school built for the development, Mounds View Public Schools would have to impose District-wide boundary changes which would impact thousands of families with attendance area shifts.
Was closing Pike Lake and Snail Lake a mistake?
No. After a decade of decline, downsizing from eight elementary schools to six elementary schools made sense in 2005. It makes sense today. Downsizing kept our schools “right-sized” for more than a decade, and it relieved the six elementary schools of more than 800 students and 34 classrooms. Later, when other districts were scrambling to build classroom spaces to accommodate the state’s all-day, every day kindergarten statute, Mounds View was able to use these two sites to house kindergarten and relieve space issues in the elementary schools.
Why not reopen Pike Lake and Snail Lake?
Returning these two sites to elementary schools would not solve the space crunch. Even though all elementary schools are now serving only grades 1-5, all are filled at or beyond their capacities. Today, these two centers remain 100 percent occupied with 1,500 pre-K and kindergarten students. Even if the math supported it, returning these two sites to traditional elementary schools would force boundary changes for all elementary schools impacting 5,000 students throughout the District. Surveys continue to indicate high levels of parent satisfaction with the kindergarten centers at Pike Lake and Snail Lake.
What’s a bond? How is it different from an operating levy?
Bonds raise money that can only be used for new construction or additions to school buildings. These funds cannot be used to run or operate schools. Operating levies provide money above the state allocation to be used for operational expenses such as staff salaries, supplies, heating expenses, transportation and co-curricular programs. These are the funds that it takes to run and operate schools. Bonds and operating levies require voter approval through the referendum process.
What voter-approved levies do we have in place?
We have two voter-approved levies in place. The first levy provides $535 per student, and it expires in 2019-20. This eight-year levy was first approved by voters in 2003 and was renewed by voters at no increase in 2010. The second provides $1,024 per student, and it expires in 2022-23. This levy was first approved by voters in 2006 and was renewed by voters at no increase in 2013. These levies generate $20 million of general fund revenue for annual operations of the schools, which is 14% of total general fund revenues.
What voter-approved bonds do we have in place?
We have just one voter-approved bond in place. The bond was approved by voters on May 25, 1999, and provided authorization to borrow $80 million to be used for construction improvements to School District buildings. Bonds were sold from 1999 to 2001 and have been refunded several times to save over $8.3 million in interest over the life of the bonds. The final payment is scheduled for February 1, 2024.
What will the bond cost tax payers?
The monthly tax increase on a median-valued home ($275,000) is $16.42. Neighbors United believes this is a reasonable request for investing in the long-term success of our students, schools and communities.
A tax calculator can help property owners determine their exact amount.
Why is the average home projected at a value of $275,000?
Ramsey County provides specific median values of homes for each municipality within our school boundaries. The eight cities’ combined average is $273,812 as a blended value.