District may test water for fall levyThe District 196 School Board is getting ready to test the waters for a November operating levy.
By: Nathan Hansen, Rosemount Town Pages
The District 196 School Board is getting ready to test the waters for a November operating levy.
At a workshop meeting Monday board members weighed the benefits of conducting a survey of district residents that could help determine whether voters would support an operating levy and how much more they would be willing to pay. The telephone survey of 400 district residents would also give the district an overall sense of how residents feel about schools.
The survey would cost from $15,000 to $20,000 depending on the size of the sample and the number and type of questions asked.
Nobody in the district has formally announced plans to put a levy question on the November ballot, but the possibility has been mentioned frequently as the board made plans for a $15.3 million adjustment to its budget. The board also talked Monday about a five-year financial plan that includes as much as $35 million in budget adjustments next year.
The district currently receives $1,042 per student from voter-approved tax levies. State rules allow districts to collect as much as $1,531 per student, giving ISD 196 room to collect an additional $489 per student.
If voters approved a maximum levy it would bring in about $13.7 million more per year.
District communication specialist Tony Taschner said there isn’t much question about whether the district would ask for that full amount if it puts a levy question on the ballot. The question is whether voters would support a levy at all.
As a first step toward answering that question board members heard a proposal Monday from Don Lifto of Springsted Inc. Lifto has worked with the district on two previous surveys, most recently in 2005, when the district was gauging public interest in another levy question.
Lifto said that survey and another conducted in 2004 were accurate to within a percentage point or two in predicting how many people would support the levy. But board member Joel Albright pointed out that the last survey suggested the board ask for a much smaller levy than voters ultimately approved.
Lifto admitted public opinion can change between the time a survey is conducted and election day, but said part of the public’s reaction has to do with the case the district makes for a levy. A survey, he said, can help the district understand what’s important to residents and can help shape what he called the district’s story. If survey respondents say class sizes are important to them, Lifto said, the district can explain that cuts will affect teacher jobs. It can also help the district figure out whether to ask for one large levy or split the request into multiple questions.
“The survey ... provides you with terrific data,” Lifto said.
School board members did not vote on the survey proposal Monday. It will likely be on the agenda at the board’s next regular meeting, scheduled to take place June 14 at Dakota Ridge School.