Twin Oaks Middle School

Students at Twin Oaks Middle School utilize a multi-purpose learning space.

The Prior Lake Savage Area School Board will decide next month whether or not to pursue a technology levy referendum in November.

The discussion was brought back to the table at the board’s regular June 14 meeting, months after the board put the referendum on hold at the beginning of the year.

At that time, the general consensus was that more time was needed to gather stakeholder input on the topic before it could be voted on.

Marcus Milazzo, director of technology, and Julie Cink, executive director of business services, presented a technology levy recommendation to school board members last Monday to review funding, research and survey feedback from stakeholders.

Milazzo said the district conducted the surveys and focus groups for faculty, students and parents on what students and staff needed in technology to excel and succeed.

“We’ve listened to our stakeholders. We’ve conducted student and staff surveys in the fall and student focus groups in the spring,” said Milazzo. “We surveyed students and staff again and we’ve received administration feedback.”

The proposal

The proposed capital project levy authorization (if voter approved on the Nov. 2, 2021 ballot) would raise approximately $3.5 million in the first year it would to be levied, for taxes payable in 2022, and would be authorized for 10 years. The estimated total cost of the projects to be funded over that time period is approximately $35 million. The tax impact would be $17 per month based on the district’s $400,000 average home value.

Funds would support student and staff devices, safety and security, classroom learning, network infrastructure and operational software as well as technology support.

PLSAS is one of the only neighboring and comparable districts without a technology levy. A technology levy would allow all K-12 students to maintain a district-issued device that better serves their learning needs in the classroom and at home and would allow all staff to have a district-issued device that meets their needs in their classroom or department. Having a separate technology levy would also ease up funds in the General Fund budget by at least $1.5 million.

If the proposed technology levy passes in November, all students and staff would have equitable access to instructional technology and teachers would have access to instructional software and hardware including a digital curriculum. The district would also be able facilitate a four-year device replacement cycle. If it fails, the district will need to reduce student’s district-issued devices from grades K-12 to 9-12 beginning 2022-23 and there would not be adequate funding to replace aging security equipment plus other drawbacks.

“The ability to have an updated device in the hands of a student that can meet their needs currently where they’re at and as they grow and move through our district — but to also have that that device be updated in a four year cycle in a 10 year tech levy — those students will have three refreshes in devices which I think is really huge and really important,” said Milazzo. “If it fails, things are going to be different on how we deliver instructional technology in this district.”

The board will take action on whether or not to adopt the resolution at their next meeting on July 12.