Last November, voters did not pass Question 1 of District 112's referendum asking for an annual $5.6 million, and included operational costs for the proposed new school in Question 2, which also did not pass. As a result, District 112 is proposing a budget that will reduce spending up to $29 million within three years, exceeding the $16.8 million the referendum would have yielded during this same time period.
June 24, the school board approved Superintendent Clint Christopher’s letter to the Minnesota education commissioner seeking review of the referendum, which had no mention of District 112 having a significant gap in its budget. Instead it referenced the operating levy as being related to projects outlined in Question 2. The district spent $58,000 “informing” the community of the referendum and failed to mention what the district claimed at the Jan. 29 community meeting; the $5.6 million annual referendum was not enough funding to cover a significant budget gap. It is not clear how the district had planned to pay for the operational costs associated with the projects in Question 2.
At the Jan. 13 School Board meeting there was unanimous approval of the 2020-21 budget assumptions, which only included an increase in enrollment by 100 students. This is a significant downsizing of the growth projection used to persuade voters to pass $39 million to build a new school and its related $5.6 million operating levy.
District tax revenue is approximately $12,200 per student and excluding 528 students negatively impacts the forecasted budget by $6.4 million. At the Jan. 27 School Board meeting DeeDee Kahring stated it was true, enrollment trends have not been keeping pace with the growth projections.
This is in conflict with the information published by the district, which described the growth projections as “reality” and the challenges to these numbers as "rumor."
District 112 has now proposed changes to our schools that are irreversible and include eliminating 7th hour from the high and middle schools, reducing graduation requirements, cutting staff by 48 FTEs, and eliminating courses.
Financial documents demonstrate District 112 has increased its budget by $7.5 million which includes adding administration headcount 4.38% and operations spending of 18.14% or $2.5 million, and it all outpaces revenue.
Passing the 2019 referendum would have delayed exposing these concerns. In 2015, voters passed a referendum understanding the growth projection was 600 new students within four years. The result, Carver Elementary was built and expansions completed provided space for 1,100 new elementary students. Carver elementary now costs $6.4 million annually while only 120 new elementary students enrolled in District 112.
The revenue of 600 new students would have been approximately $7.3 million. However, the 120-student growth only resulted in $1.5 million in new revenue. Resetting boundaries shifted students around the district and masked the lack of revenue growth, while expenses increased.
Opportunities to increase revenue exist; develop retention strategies for the 1,700 students open-enrolling out to other public schools and taking revenue with. Eliminate spending on unquantifiable programs, headcount, and other expenses associated. Follow written recommendations of auditors.