Shakopee school board retreat

The Shakopee School Board approved a phased-in $9 million levy ask that would impact taxpayers for the next four years at its July 20 meeting.

The Shakopee School Board unanimously approved a ballot measure for a $9 million phased-in operating levy, along with $2 million in permanent budget cuts for the next two years if the levy passes, and $5.4 million in permanent budget cuts for the 2021-2022 school year if it doesn’t.

If passed Nov. 3, the levy would be paid over the course of the next four years. If the levy fails, 48 teaching positions would be cut for the 2021-2022 school year.

“We’re basically laying the path out in two different ways,” Shakopee Superintendent Mike Redmond said. “And whichever path that is, we’ll show up to work and do our best to serve our communities.”

Earlier this year, the district announced a $2.5 million budget deficit for the 2021-2022 school year that, if left alone, would snowball until the district’s fund balance is $26 million in the hole by 2024.

Board member Joe Aldrich said when the budget conversation started, he was leaning toward voting no to a levy. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said the district can’t count on state funding to fix the problem. Even apart from COVID-19, district administration has long said state funding has not kept pace with inflation.

“The fact that the state’s not going to do anything solidified my mind that there’s nothing else we can do,” Aldrich said. “We need to take action because we can’t trust that the state is going to be able to do anything in the next three to five years because of COVID. We can’t count on anybody but ourselves here.”

The phased-in levy would amount to $3.6 million for taxes payable 2020-2021; $2.7 million for the second year; $1.8 million for the third year and $900,000 for the final year, for a total of a $1,000 increase per pupil.

That $1,000 per pupil would continue on the tax roll from 2025 to 2030.

Because $4.9 million of the district’s debt relief is falling off in 2021, if the levy passes, a $280,000 home would see a net monthly change of $4.13 per month, or about $200, over the next four years. A $350,000 home would see a net increase of $237 over the next four years and a $500,000 home would see a net tax increase of $332 for the next four years.

Regardless whether the levy passes or not, the district will trim $450,000 for the 2020-2021 school year by not filling five open non-teaching positions next year. It will also trim its non-payroll budgets, like the district-wide supply budget and the staff development fund.

For the 2021-2022 school year, $1.6 million in cuts will largely affect district administration, paraprofessionals and learning coaches. Those cuts will include a Shakopee High School assistant principal position, seven digital learning and instructional coaches, 10 paraprofessionals and a reduction of spending on Learning, Teaching and Equity, impacting at least 22 full-time-equivalent, non-teaching positions.

Another $90,000 in full-time equivalent positions will also be cut from the district’s superintendent office.

“It’s important to acknowledge that these do hurt,” board member Matt McKeand said. “Most of our money is spent on people. So this impacts people.”

If the referendum doesn’t pass, 8% — or 48 teachers — will need to be cut for the 2021-2022 school year, and $11.15 million in budget cuts will be made over the next five years.

“If we just make cuts, we’re ultimately hurting our students, which ultimately hurts our future,” board chair Kristi Peterson said before voting to put the levy on the ballot box. “And I just can’t do that.”

Maddie DeBilzan graduated with a journalism degree from Bethel University. She’s interned at Salon Media and the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Outside of work, she sifts through Goodwill clothing racks, listens to Ben Rector's music and goes on long runs.

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