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Thursday, November 2, 2006

Volume 53

Special Edition

MV School District citizens to vote Nov. 7 on referendum levy When voters cast their ballots next Tuesday, they will decide whether the levy passes or fails. Citizens are voting to renew and increase a levy passed in 1986, which is set to expire in 2008. PASS: • Property taxes in the community will increase by $76 per $100,000 property value per year during the first year of the levy. • The property tax increase will be reduced to $58 per $100,000 property value per year by 2010-2011. • Mounds View School District will maintain its current level of performance. FAIL: • 47+ classes at MV High School and 42+ classes at Irondale High School will be cut starting the 2007-2008 school year; Irondale’s Auto Shop will be closed. • The district will have to reduce $5.4 million to balance the 20072008 budget. • Residents’ property taxes will not change. • To compensate for the budget deficit, the District estimates it will have to increase core class sizes to 36-40 students and reduce the number of deans at MV from eight to five.

photo by Nick Cairl

The resolution to request a voter-approved levy, adopted Aug. 8 by the School Board, will be voted on by district taxpayers Nov. 7.

ballot question from

Above is the question voters will answer Nov. 7 as it will appear on the ballots.

The issue from both sides: Should we pass the levy? YES

• If the levy fails, classes will be cut at both high


• The levy will cause property taxes to increase.

schools, and class sizes will increase.

• The majority of households in the district do not • Transportation fees will increase if the levy fails. • All district pools will close if the levy fails.

have students in the public school system.

• The School Board needs to be more fiscally responsible.

• This levy is to replace the 1986 levy, which was not adjusted for inflation.

• The School Board should not use threats of cuts and classroom size increases to push for the levy.

• Better schools will help keep property values high.

• Teachers are overpaid and receive too many benefits.

Through the past few years of decreasing budgets, many purchases have been made for the Mounds View district. Of course, many taxpayers are wondering:

Where did the money come from? STEM The STEM program improves techonological resources in the math and science departments. STEM has funded new projectors, computers, SMART screens, and other technology popping up around the math and science departments. The technology is funded by the Snail Lake Landing sale. Computers are considered a capital expense.

Brad and Val Mateer think the school district should be spending its money more wisely. First I would like you to understand that just because we may oppose the levy, it does not mean we do not support our students in the Mounds View School District. We all want an excellent educational experience for our students, from kindergarten through seniors in high school. Education is one of the most important things you can give your child. Let’s begin; there are several reasons why we do not support a levy increase in the Mounds View School District. The first is the threats and the money the schools spend to get the word out. They continue to threaten the taxpayer with cuts and class size increases if they do not get their way. Let’s see where the spending is going - after all, this money is received from the taxpayers, and they are the ones that should have the opportunity to review the money that is being spent by a public institution. We realize that Mounds View is a progressive school district with high standards, but tons of money is spent in changing the curriculum every year; this involves training the teachers, purchasing new books and materials for each of the changes. From the outside looking in, there seem to be many changes that could be made. However, since the public does not have access to how the

TEACHER BENEFITS Teachers’ benefits include things such as health care and pension plans. The state requires teachers’ benefits to be reneotiated every two years. This collective bargaining is between the district and the teacher’s association.

SECURITY CAMERAS Paid for partially with district funds and partially from a school safety grant. Some of it came out of district dollars.

money is being spent, we can only speculate where the money is going. Each year the public is threatened by the school district by cuts and classroom increases. For many years they continue to come to the taxpayers with requests for more money to keep the class sizes down. For example, two years ago when we voted to increase our property taxes the school district promised to reduce class sizes, then the very next year they told the taxpayers they were running out of money and the class sizes needed to increase. Yes, there are cost increases in doing regular business, but my question is, does this amount result in the type of increase they are giving us? I don't think so. There are more examples: the failed math program in the district not too many years ago. They spent a lot of money on this program that led many of our seniors that went through the program to fail their incoming entrance exams and many parents had to spend their own money having them tutored to retake the entrance exams for college. The thing that most people do not know is that this program failed in the Detroit public schools. My question is "if it failed in Detroit, why did they think it would work here?" Two years ago the PTA, an organization that supports our schools, chose to spend $30,000+ promoting a say “yes” to the levy. From my understanding, 12 people made the decision to spend this money; once again it would seem that the money would have been better served reducing the expenses of the school. Just last week, we received a call from a telemarketer stating why we should vote yes for the levy. When asked if she was being paid to call us, she said yes. She was hired by the district to call Mounds View taxpayers to pass the levy. Who funded these calls and how much did this cost? Maybe we could have used that money to go toward the $400 I spent for busing my boys to school last year. As a taxpayer in this state I want to see

us take more responsibility for the money that is being spent. Please, Mounds View School District, "show us the money." Let us see a full disclosure. Ten years ago when the first levy was passed here, the district did not even have a full accounting of how they were going to spend the money. Please do not tell me that they are fiscally accountable - when many tax payers asked the question “where is the money going?” they could only account for a little more than half of the money being approved. As for benefits for teachers, there was an article in the local paper written by a school board member that challenged the board’s claims on the teacher’s benefits. Our teachers are on the top of the line with benefits. How many of us taxpayers can say that 100 percent of my dental, life insurance, disability insurance is paid for? How many retirees can say 100 percent of their dental and 85 percent of their medical insurance is covered? The cost of their package for retirees is about $310,000! I do not want this to be a slam against the teachers: we have a tremendous teaching staff in all of the Mounds View schools, so teachers, if you are reading this do not "read in this" that you are overpaid. Clearly, the education system is badly in need of fixing. It is obvious that the board is not doing a good job of controlling expenses. For years the board has threatened to cut the things they know we all want for our children. How can they keep saying that the state is underfunding the schools, when 40 percent of the budget goes to schools? All of the propaganda that has been published by the Mounds View School District says it is for the kids. We would like everyone to know, that we are doing it for the kids as well, helping each one of the students to learn to become fiscally responsible for what they are given. We should never take for granted the public’s money, we should always be economically accountable.


A debate wi over the The student, would v He

Even within families, the choice to vote “yes”

A Brief History of School Fundin 2001 1988 Required by new state laws, Mounds View extended the life of the 1986 levy through 2007 with expiration set for 2008.

1986 Voters approve an operating levy


The Legislature increased state funding for districts by $415 per student, but reduced the 1986 operating levy by $415 per student. Voters in Mounds View Public Schools defeated a levy request to restore the $415 and add a legislatively allowed increase.

1999 Voters approve a bond referendum for construction efforts to improve long-term indoor air quality and safety issues for the distict’s aging school buildings.

2002 Mounds View becomes eligible to sell bonds without voter-approval to prevent deterioration of schools in large districts with aging buildings.

2003 The School Board begins to issue a series of two bonds, each for a term of 20 years to fund final construction expenses anticipated prior to 1999. There is no increased cost to taxpayers because the District made reductions in other levies that offset the expense of the bonds.

tric inc Mo lev exp

TURF The funds for the turf came from the sale of the Snail Lake Landing property. The profits made by the sale of any land must be used for capital expenses. Capital expenditures must be used for property or something sustainable for at least five years.

photos by Nick Cairl

HORSE STATUE The statue was funded entirely by private donations. Parents thought it would be a nice addition to the stadium.

SIGNS The signs located outside 13 buildings in the Mounds View district were installed in 2006. They were funded by the Snail Lake Landing sale, built to withstand the elements, unlike past signs that were rotted wood. All schools now have uniform, lit-up signs that will require minimal maintenance in the future.

r v. Mateer:

ithin a household e levy divides a family. , if given the chance, vote “yes.” er father disagrees.

Chelsy Mateer, 12

photos by Val Mateer

Brad Mateer

or “no” does not stand unanimous.

Chelsy Mateer is afraid she will lose important educational opportunities if the levy fails. Here is a typical conversation at home: “The schools are not spending their money correctly or responsibly. The levy is ridiculous! We voted to pass one only two years ago. And now, they’re asking for more money? Ridiculous.” These words of my parents ring in my head every night before bed. A new levy is more money to them. But for me? What does it mean if this levy doesn’t pass? I understand my parents’ arguments about how the Mounds View School District is not spending their money responsibly, but I don’t know if I buy into the whole “not passing the levy” fact. If the levy does not pass, it affects me directly. The Viewer will be cut, and being a journalist might be something I want to go into after college. Losing this opportunity in high school would be a blow to my experience. And if the levy doesn’t pass, any language without a sufficient amount of enrollment will be cut. That could potentially be French IV next year. I also plan to take French post high school and to study abroad in a French-speaking country in college. Cutting this class would be yet another blow at my future. Now, my parents think that cutting these classes is a threat to make the community vote, but even if it is, I’m not willing to take the risk of losing opportunities for my future. If the levy does pass, property taxes for Shoreview, where my parents and I reside, will increase $177 per year (Operating Levy Referendum, Nov 7, 2006). I understand that more money to pay

on taxes is not good, but you have to look at the other side of the argument. If the levy does not pass, the downside is going to be much worse than paying a few extra hundred dollars a year. I attended an information meeting at Turtle Lake Elementary School on Monday, Oct. 16. I was informed there that if the levy does not pass, a transportation fee for $400 will be installed for kids living within two miles of the school. This does affect my family, since we live just within the two-mile mark of Turtle Lake, and I have two younger brothers who attend there for second and third grades. If the levy doesn’t pass, homeroom and core class sizes will be pushed to the maximum capacity possible. This also affects me. Once again, class sizes are going to be bumped up and the teacher to student ratio becomes more students to one teacher. It’s hard enough for classes that I have trouble in. Getting one-on-one time in class is difficult as it is because of so many other students, and I don’t always have the time to come in before or after school to obtain that extra help; so I just struggle through it by myself. Another consequence of the levy not being passed is that band and orchestra will be cut at the elementary school age. Both my little brothers aspire to be little drummer boys when they enter fifth grade, and they would lose this chance to become successful at a younger age. Not to mention the fact that Mr. Ankrum will have to struggle with teaching all the incoming sixth graders how to play, which may make the band, in the future, less successful. Another consequence of the levy not being passed is the closing of district pools for student and community use. This definitely upsets me because I had to suffer through three years of swimming during gym class, so my brothers for sure should have to. Also, what about the swim teams? Where are they suppose to practice? The community center? And if so, doesn’t that just raise the fees for the swim team to pay for pool time and use? I know paying more money is never good, but Dad, Mom, you have the money to pay for it. Please don’t punish me and your three other children in the Mounds View School District because of this. Take a look at the consequences, and realize that this is going to punish us, even if you are saving money.



New legislation gives Minnesota school discts the ability to ask voters to approve an creased amount of money through levies. ounds View asks voters to revoke the 1986 vy and replace it with a new eight-year levy to pire in 2015.

2003 Mounds View remains near the bottom of all metro districts in total dollars received through levies - far below the limit allowed by the legislature. Voters approve a new operating levy request.

2008 The 1986 levy will expire if voters do not approve the 2006 levy request.

2012 The 2003 levy is set to expire if voters do not approve a renewal.

2015 When the 2006 levy request, if approved, will expire.

2024 The 2003 alternative facilities bonds for construction will expire unless new bonds are authorized or current bonds are refunded to save interest.

4special edition: the levy Federal funds must support schools Scott Oberg explains how local funding may not be the best option

By Scott Oberg MV teacher

Education is the single most important factor for economic prosperity and upward mobility. Access to a quality public education is a right all American citizens are entitled to. It sounds cliché, but you, the current generation of public school students, are indeed our nation’s future. The connection between a vibrant, growing economy and a high quality public education is inseparable. It takes a vibrant economy to produce the tax base necessary to fund a high quality public education, and in turn, it takes a high quality public education to produce the skilled

workers necessary to establish federalist system allows and tious income and property taxand maintain a vibrant, growing encourages local decision-makpaying citizens are being at least economy. In addition, education ing. partially taxed three times for is the single most important tool 4) Giving parents more infor- public education: once when our government can provide to mation about the quality of their they pay their federal income individuals to empower a rise children’s school (MVHS is a tax, again when they pay their out of poverty and diminish five-star school – the highest rat- state income tax, and a third time reliance on federal and state wel- ing), offering them choices (such when they pay their property fare. as open enrollment) and taxes. The No Child Left Behind resources for their children’s If the federal government Act (NCLB), passed by a biparti- education. mandates necessary changes or san Congress improvements to our and signed into nation’s education law by system, they should f the federal goverment mandates fully fund those President Bush in 2004, enables improvements. Since necessary changes or improvements the aforemenit is in the best intertioned concepts of the federal to our nation’s education system, they est to come to government to create fruition. The should fully fund those improvements... and maintain a wellNCLB Act is educated populace based on “four (thus saving monies fundamental that would normally pillars”: These “four fundamental pilbe spent on social welfare enti1) Ensuring stronger account- lars” are admirable and laudable, tlement programs), it only seems ability for student achievement, but unachievable without adeappropriate that the federal govfor all children. NCLB is why quate funding. Currently, the ernment should fully fund their you take many standardized state of Minnesota provides over mandates such as the NCLB Act. tests. 60% of the money needed to Furthermore, for the greater 2) Encouraging education operate the Mounds View Public good of the nation, the federal methods that work. Pretty vague, Schools, whereas the federal government should increase their but theoretically it makes sense. government only provides 3%. overall funding of public educa3) Providing flexibility and Local taxpayers are responsible tion, decreasing the need for control to state and local govern- for the lion’s share of the balstate aid and eliminating the burments. A true small government ance. This means that conscienden on local taxpayers.

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NOVEMBER 2, 2006

MV classes that won’t make the cut The following are among 47+ classes to be cut at MV should the levy fail. All Career Education except Senior Experience Six Business/ Marketing classes All Family and Consumer Science Advanced 2D and 3D art Art History AP and Portfolio classes VISTA (yearbook) Viewer (student newspaper) Film Creation and Production Speech and Drama Analysis classes CIS Literature Honors Humanities Introduction to Statistics Anatomy and Physiology Advanced CAD/Drafting Any foreign language lacking sufficient enrollment

Levy opponents say Local leader urges they’ll vote ‘no’ citizens to ‘Vote Yes’ While there is no organized “Vote No” campaign, residents of the district express their opposition to the proposed levy. “The school needs to think of better ways to cut money. Teachers always get raises no matter what; they should only give raises based on performance, not the number of years they have worked. If they can give teachers raises, then cutting classes wouldn’t make much of a difference. I don’t think they need to raise money, I think they need to cut spending.” - Michael Steele, MV student “[The schools] will put the money into ‘stupid’ spending instead of where it needs to go, which is teaching.” - Karen Cossack, district resident “We are being taxed to death and I am tired of it.” - Mrs. Thomas, district resident, first name witheld “Instead of putting expensive new football turf on the field, they should have used the money in the past to improve classroom environment and increase teacher salaries.” - district resident, name witheld “I no longer want to pay the additional tax dollars when I don’t have any kids in the district.” - Ed Thorud, district resident

By Wendy Benson

‘Vote Yes’ campaign chair On November 7th, voters in the area served by Mounds View Public Schools will be asked to approve the renewal of an existing operating levy and an additional amount of levy authority allowed by the State. The levy is on the ballot for a number of reasons; the retirement of a current levy (originally authorized by voters in 1986), continued declining enrollment districtwide, and state-determined funding formulas that key a majority of revenues on enrollment figures. The ‘Vote Yes’ advocacy committee ‘Neighbors United’ has been working since last April to get accurate information to the (roughly) 50,000 voters living here. You might be surprised to learn that over 70 percent of the households in our school district do not have children in our schools. This creates a challenge for our group, as those community members aren’t typically as familiar with the issues affecting our local schools. Reaching to inform the ‘non-parent’ community, we’ve presented information at many community events including Chamber of Commerce meetings, City Council meetings, and meetings of senior citizens. In addition to one mailing of information to all district residents, members of Neighbors United have hand-delivered informative literature to every home in the

district, twice. Facts about the levy are numerous, but most people want to know one thing: what it will cost me if the levy is successful. The answer to that question is $76 per year based on every $100,000 of home value; that means a tax increase for the average homeowner of $5 a week. If voters don’t approve the request (by voting “no”), Mounds View Public Schools will actually lose approximately $3 million in funding. Levies are a way that governmental entities (like cities, counties, the State, and school districts) acquire tax revenue to fund day-to-day operations. Many years ago, levies were required to be called ‘excess levy referenda,’ because they were thought to pay for things beyond what was typically expected in schools. The days of levies providing ‘extras’ are over. Today’s levies pay for basic needs in our schools like teachers in the classroom and volatile energy costs. This levy request is no exception. Unbelievable as it may seem, if the levy fails, classes will actually be eliminated in the high schools, including all FACS classes; classes in art, business, career education, music, physical education, world language, and technology education. Even core areas of Social Studies, Math, Science and English will lose challenging coursework. That’s at the high schools. District-wide, all swimming pools will be closed - no more school or community use; this means swim teams will have to go elsewhere for pool time. Elementary band and orchestra programming has been saved for years, but will be gone if the levy fails. Co-curricular activities will be cut or will see dramatic fee increases. The list goes on and on, but the community can prevent the erosion of programming - they can vote yes for the levy.

Passing this levy is only a part of the financial solution; public school funding in the state of Minnesota is at a critical crossroads. After many years of flat state funding and increasing inflationary pressure, school districts across Minnesota are being forced to ask their communities to support local operating levies – in fact, over 90% currently rely on operating levies for a portion of their revenue. Neighbors United believes that if voters say no to this levy request, the result will be a district that is very different from the one that has consistently ranked in the Top 10 districts in the metro-area when it comes to academic achievement. We can win this election; people in this district value education, and know that Mounds View Public Schools are an important part of the community. They know that people buy their homes here because we have great schools, and they know what’s at stake if we fail. We expect high voter turnout this year and it’s critically important that every supporter gets out to vote. How can you make a difference? If you’re an eligible voter in the Mounds View Public School district, please vote YES on November 7th. If you haven’t registered to vote you can do so, even on election day… your YES vote will help ensure that students in Mounds View Public Schools continue to receive the educational opportunities they need to prepare them for the future. While your support of the levy is critical, remember, only your vote counts! Want to know more about… The levy: Mounds View Public Schools: How to register and vote:

Levy Edition: November 2nd, 2006 - MVHS Viewer  
Levy Edition: November 2nd, 2006 - MVHS Viewer  

Thursday, November 2, 2006 Volume 53 Special Edition - The School Board should not use threats of cuts and classroom size increases to push...