The Shakopee School Board this week unanimously approved a special election to bring an operating levy before voters on Nov. 2.
The special election follows an attempt at a similar operating levy in November 2020, when voters shot down the district’s proposed $9 million operating levy, causing Shakopee Public Schools to complete $7.5 million in cuts across the district.
There will be two questions on the ballot in November. The first question will request $866 per pupil in funding. The second question will request an additional $400 per pupil. Question one must pass for question two to apply. The amount noted on the ballot in each question is not the amount of a property owner’s tax increase but rather a calculation of dollars needed per pupil, according to a news release from the district.
“Due to the recent $7.5 million in budget cuts, our school district’s budget is balanced for the next two school years,” Superintendent Mike Redmond said in a statement. “However, due to the long term structural imbalance of our budget, we have significant budget shortfalls looming in the 2023-24 school year and the years that follow. To tackle these structural deficits, our community has a choice between two paths moving forward: We can make large budget cuts every two or three years, starting with a projected cut of $5.082 million prior to the 2023-24 school year, or we can approve ongoing operating revenue with a voter approved operating levy to provide the necessary funding for the district.”
Shakopee is the only school district in the metro area without a voter approved operating levy, according to the district.
The Shakopee School Board’s cuts have included 57 full-time or part-time teachers, cuts to district paraprofessionals and counselors, the elimination of middle school sports and more.
The district’s transportation budget has been trimmed as have budgets for building and grounds.
Staffing targets friom April for the 2021-22 school year projected the average high school class size will increase from 31 to 36 students. For middle school, class sizes are projected to increase from 31 to 34.1 students. And elementary class sizes will grow, on average, between two and three students.
Over the past two years, the current school coard has worked to find the best way to tackle the financial challenges facing the school district, the release said. Most recently, it solicited information from the community via a phone survey that was conducted by a third-party in May. This survey asked registered voters questions about the district’s financial challenges and overall performance. All members of the community were also given the opportunity to provide online feedback in late June/early July to questions very similar to those asked in the formal phone survey.
The information from each of these activities was used to help the school board, on behalf of the community, to make the decision to bring an operating levy before the voters on Nov. 2.
The district will hold a Financial Challenges Community Forum on Monday, July 26 from 6:30-8 p.m. in the Thrust Stage at Shakopee High School to further engage with the community on financial discussions related to the levy and district.