To the editor,
We hear it a lot, but it’s absolutely true. Our children are the future and the education they receive plays one of the largest roles in shaping that future. Students, residents, and property owners are fortunate to be a part of District 196, one of the most desirable districts in the state.
This year, new majorities at the state legislature accomplished a lot for K-12 education: funding for all-day kindergarten and early childhood scholarships, important new reforms, and an increase in general funding. However, one good year doesn’t make up for more than a decade of underfunding, cuts and shifts.
As most District 196 residents are aware, the district is facing a $30 million shortfall over the next two years and is asking the voters for a levy increase to cover that deficit.
If the levy is approved by voters, it would result in a $56 property tax increase for an average value home in the district. Another of the legislature’s accomplishments — Equalization Aid — is the driving force in limiting the increase to $56, just $4.66 a month. This is an increase that would, for many people, be offset by the direct property tax relief restored by the legislature. Through the expanded Homestead Credit Refund, a Dakota County homeowner will see an average refund increase of $237.
Without this levy, District 196 would take a significant step back with increased class sizes, cuts to great programs like Gifted and Talented, elimination of fifth-grade band and ninth-grade B-team sports, and increased fees for high school sports. And that would just be for 2014-15. Another $20 million in cuts would need to be made for the following year.
We’ve met with District 196 officials, and we know that they very carefully considered whether or not this levy was absolutely necessary. The board and administration have been good fiscal stewards. They made difficult cuts and froze salaries before going to voters.
Great communities have great schools. Great communities step up and support their schools because they understand the importance of education. District 196 has made a positive impact on the lives of so many kids in Rosemount, Apple Valley and Eagan, and helped them earn a bright future.
Our community has shown great support for District 196, and it’s time for us to step up and do so again. We’ll be voting yes on Nov. 5 and hope our community will join us.