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Class sizes will go up if levy fails

Class sizes could go up, sports options for ninth graders could go down and the fifth grade band program could go away altogether if voters in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District do not approve a proposed operating levy on Nov. 5.

Superintendent Jane Berenz provided a first look Monday at $6 million in cuts and budget adjustments that will be necessary if voters do not support the levy, which would bring in an additional $10 million per year. The preliminary list includes bigger class sizes at all grade levels; cuts to programs, including those for gifted and talented students; higher participation fees for co-curricular activities; and the elimination of fifth grade band, B-team sports for ninth graders and the developmental psychology program at the high school level.

Communication director Tony Taschner said cuts could also impact programs like Destination Imagination and Lego League as well as staffing in the district's media centers.

The cuts, identified by a group that included the superintendent's cabinet and representatives from school administration, would all come in the 2014-15 school year. No cuts are planned for 2013-14.

Berenz also introduced about $4 million worth of changes changes the district will make regardless of the levy vote to improve efficiency.

According to the district's most recent forecasts, without a successful levy there will be as much as $10 million in adjustments needed in 2014-15 and as much as $20 million in 2015-16.

Cuts are nothing new in the district. There were $34 million in budget adjustments from 2009 to 2012, including the elimination of more than 200 positions. But there were no programs eliminated and a recent survey suggested residents did not notice the changes.

"It's pretty invisible to the community," Berenz said. "It certainly wasn't invisible to our employees."

That could change with future cuts.

"Anything we do from here will be on top of those cuts," Berenz said. "We did not reinstate anything."

About 75 percent of district fifth graders are involved in the band program. Cutting B-team sports — which includes volleyball, basketball, football and baseball, depending on the school — would affect about 350 students.

Developmental psychology is a program in which high school students teach anti-drug messages to district sixth graders. It involved about 100 high school seniors last year and about 2,000 sixth graders.

There was no specific discussion of what the $20 million in cuts would look like in 2015-16 but Berenz pointed out $20 million is the equivalent of 300 teaching positions. She said the district would not make the cuts solely by eliminating teaching positions.

District 196 voters will decide Nov. 5 whether to revoke a current operating levy that brings in $1,110.95 per student and replace it with one that brings in $1,485. The new levy could also increase from year to year at the rate of inflation.

The proposed levy would cost the owner of a $225,000 home — the district average — an additional $15 per month.

Berenz said Monday the levy is necessary because state funding has not kept up with the rate of inflation.

The district identified potential cuts now, Taschner said, to give people a sense of what their levy vote will mean.

"You need to be able to say what you will do if it doesn't pass," he said. "If you just say we'll cut $6 million and give no definition to it, it's not really being informative and giving people the choice."

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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