Election day is here for Eastern Carver County Schools voters, and a lone question on most ballots -- some Chanhassen residents will have Minnetonka School Board elections -- asks for a 10-year operating levy that would increase general education revenue by $550 per pupil, subject to an annual increase at the rate of inflation.
Voting in-person is available at four locations locally between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.
If the levy is approved, based on the average Carver County home value of $375,000, the average homeowner would see a tax increase of about $20 per month, or $242 annually. The range of increase would be as small as $8 per month for a home value of $150,000, to $40 per month for a $750,000 home.
Currently, ECCS operates at $980 per pupil funding.
Comparable districts such as Stillwater and Lakeville sit at $1,250 to $1,400, with Eden Prairie, Bloomington, Wayzata, Edina, Hopkins and Minnetonka well over $1,500, with some close to $2,000, according to the district.
The increase of $550 per pupil for fiscal year 2023 would place ECCS in the middle to lower half of comparable districts.
If the referendum is approved, Eastern Carver County Schools says it will begin to lower class sizes at the elementary age, bring back some electives at the middle and high school level, and lower high school athletics and activities fees.
It will also grow the fund balance to protect programs and services from enrollment shifts, financial fluctuations, or other unforeseen circumstances. The district must keep a fund balance of 5% of its total expenditures for the year. More than $9 million was cut from the budget over the last two years to adhere to this policy.
The ability to maintain the current student experience would not be possible if the referendum does not pass, the district said.
Programming such as fifth-grade band, gifted and talented services, athletic and activity offerings, and a restructuring of the middle school and high school media centers could occur.
Additionally, other saving measures could include increased class sizes by one student at elementary, and by two students at middle and high school levels, as well as an increased walk zone of one mile for elementary and two miles for secondary.
In 2019, voters approved one of three Eastern Carver County Schools referendum questions. The voters approved a security and technology levy on a margin of 1,002 votes. However increasing of the operating levy failed by a margin of 193 votes; and another question, asking for a new bus garage, building maintenance and a new elementary school failed by 495 votes.
The failed questions resulted in two years of budget cuts, positions lost, classroom sizes increased, and a shift from seven-to-six period days at the high school and middle school levels.