District 622 approves max levy

Levy would remain flat if referendums fail this fall

The North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School Board approved District 622's preliminary property-tax levy at its Sept. 22 meeting.

Board members certified the proposed levy maximum of $41,339,197 for 2016. If the preliminary levy is approved at its maximum in December when board members will vote on a final levy, it would be the same amount approved by the board last year.

Business services director Randy Anderson explained that most school districts, including 622, generally approve the maximum proposed levy, because it allows the most flexibility in final levy planning.

The preliminary property-tax levy is a "not-to-exceed" levy, which means once approved by the board it cannot be raised; it can, however, be lowered.

Like all public school districts, 622 must certify a final levy by the end of December.

Board members will vote to approve a final property-tax levy Tuesday, Dec. 15, at the same location, following a truth-in-taxation hearing at 6 p.m.

November referendum  questions

Separate from the property-tax levy set by the board is a two-question operating levy referendum proposal to appear on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Like many other metro-area school districts, 622 will be asking voters to approve large levy increases this fall.

District 622 is seeking an operating levy increase of $900 per pupil, as well as a $3 million technology levy. The district currently receives about $913 per student in local, state and federal tax revenues. If approved, the $900 increase would boost overall funding to just over $1,800 per full-time student.

During a presentation on the levy referendum proposals at the board meeting, superintendent Christine Osorio reminded those in attendance and watching on TV, that all districts have an operating levy in place. She said 622 currently ranks at the very bottom when it comes to per-pupil funding out of the 20 largest metro-area school districts. At the same time, 622 is one of the larger districts in terms of enrollment with over 10,000 students.

While voters approved the continuation of an existing operating levy in 2011, District 622 has not seen an increased operating levy in well over a decade.

"We're hoping this opportunity will be the first increase since 2002," the superintendent said.

Osorio said the increase in per pupil spending is necessary to maintain class sizes and expand college and career pathways for students. The technology levy would be used to pay for increased Wi-Fi bandwidth and to purchase updated software and technology for classroom instruction, as well as for increased safety and security measures.

The proposed levy referendum increases — the operating and technology levies — combined would add about $348 per year to a typical homeowner's property-tax bill, according to district leaders.

The district has had to slash over $35 million from its budget since 2005, and more cuts are inevitable if the November levy referendums were to fail.

A tax calculator and other information on the levy proposal is available on the school district website.

The district is holding two informational meetings on the levy proposals at 622's District Education Center, 2520 E. 12th Ave. in North St. Paul. The meetings will take place from 5 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 30, and Tuesday, Oct. 27.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at jnielsen@lillienews.com or 651-748-7822.


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