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Burnsville-Eagan-Savage officials call November levy referendum

Voters in the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District will decide whether to pay an estimated $1.7 million more each year in overall property taxes for the district’s general fund.

The Board of Education unanimously approved holding the fall levy referendum at a special meeting Aug. 19. Board member Jen Holweger was absent.

The ballot question will ask voters to revoke the two currently existing voter-approved operating levies and replace them with a single levy that would provide the district with the state’s maximum per-student amount, about $1,900, for the next 10 years.

A property owner of a $250,000 property would see an estimated $6 monthly tax increase, according to Ehlers, a district financial consultant. A property owner of a $700,000 property would see an estimated $18 monthly increase.

District officials say the referendum is a part of their overall efforts to address budget shortfalls. The board expects $5.5 million in budget cuts in 2020-2021, the latest in several rounds of cuts as enrollment falls and government aid for special education falls short of the need.

The 2019-2020 budget locked $6.6 million in cuts and reductions, including cutting athletic programs below the high school level. Officials plan to reach a decision before winter break about whether to close several schools next year to cut costs.

“We’re all trying to manage with the funding that we have as best we can,” board Chairwoman Abigail Alt said in an interview in June.

The levy dollars would go towards general expenses, such as teacher salaries and classroom supplies, Finance Director Lisa Rider said.

“We need to have a comprehensive approach to help us address our budget needs so that we can deliver on our mission for students,” Superintendent Theresa Battle said in a statement after the meeting.

“An increase in funding is one step we can take. Evaluating our facilities is another major component, along with looking for alternative funding sources, continuing to find ways to right-size our spending, and focusing on program improvements that will help us best serve our students.”