2017 Referendum Frequently Asked Questions
While both are considered levies on your property tax statement, they serve different purposes and in some cases are restricted in how the money can be used. It is often said that, "levies are for learning and bonds are for building."
OPERATING LEVIES are the funds that the district uses to run and operate its schools. It provides money above the state allocation to be used for day-to-day expenses such as staff salaries, supplies, heating expenses, transportation and co-curricular programs. Edina Public Schools currently levies $13 million in general operating levies because voters approved an operating levy in 2007..
BOND LEVIES are the funds the district uses for new construction, renovations or additions to school buildings. These funds cannot be used to run schools, hire teachers or support general operating expenses. The district last approved a bond referendum in 2015 to enhance building security, transform learning spaces and improve infrastructure.
This is a 10-year operating levy, which would be in effect for taxes payable in 2018 through 2027.
The Edina Public Schools community passed a bond referendum in 2015, which funded security enhancements, infrastructure improvements, and new and renovated learning spaces in all ten school buildings.
The bond is different from an operating levy in that funds from bond can only be used for new construction, renovations or additions to school buildings. Operating levies are the funds that the District uses to run and operate its schools.
If approved, the district will be able to maintain the quality of programs and services expected in Edina and prevent $13 million in cuts
NOTE: Even with the passage of the operating levy referendum, the district will continue to address the need to realign resources to learning and address the ongoing budget gap
In addition, EPS will be able to:
The district will face a budget shortfall of more than $13 million for the 2018-19 school year.
This shortfall will cause significant cuts resulting in dramatic reductions in programs and services, likely including:
As a result, the School Board and district would undertake an extensive staff and community engagement process to identify over $13 million in cuts to balance its budget for the 2018-19 school year.
If voters approve the November operating levy, the district’s local levying authority will be maximized at the state cap with the second step (i.e., starting with taxes payable in 2020).
On a related note, the District’s 2011 Capital Projects Levy for Technology will expire in 2021. The District will make a decision as the expiration gets closer as to whether it will seek voter approval on a renewal or new technology levy.
In 2011, EPS voters approved an operating levy of $400 per pupil. In 2013, the State changed how school can levy for local funding. As a result, districts were able to convert up to $424 of voter-approved operating levy to a School Board approved (non-voter approved) levy.
Thus the 2011 operating levy no longer exists as a voter-approved levy. Only the 2007 operating levy, which expires at the end of the current school year, exists as a voter-approved levy and is the reason for the vote in November to renew and increase the operating levy.
The current operating levy, which funds day-to-day operations throughout the district, expires at the end of June. Per Minnesota Statute, the only time the district can seek renewal of an expiring operating levy in on the November general election. Thus, we are restricted to seeking voter approval in order to sustain the funding into the 2018-19 school year.
Without a renewal, the district will be faced with budget reductions over $13 million for next year. Over the last 10 years, the District has made adjustments of $8.5 million.
The majority of school districts in Minnesota use local operating dollars to offset budget gaps caused by rising costs and state funding that has not kept pace with inflation. The proposed operating levy set forth by the School Board seeks to renew and increase the district’s levy authority in a two-step process over the next 10 years.
After surveying the community earlier this summer and assessing the financial impact on property owners, the School Board found this phased approach to be more palatable to voters and more sensitive to the impact on local taxpayers, while also generating the additional resources needed to retain the quality of educational services Edina expects from its schools.
The new operating levy will help the district address the ongoing budget gap and bring EPS in line with neighboring districts who currently receive more local revenue per pupil with their operating levies.
In looking at comparison districts (Eden Prairie, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Wayzata), Edina’ operating levy is the lowest at $1412.46 per pupil. Both Hopkins and Wayzata have operating levy referenda on the ballot this November. Hopkins is asking voters to renew is current levy authority of $2011 per pupil. Wayzata is seeking to renew and increase its operating levy. They currently receive $1487 per pupil and are seeking to increase their authority to $2080 per pupil.
In its research in deciding on the ballot question, the School Board and administration recognized that seeking only a renewal of the existing operating levy would result in continued annual budget cuts, of which the District has made $8.5 million in the last 10 years.
If approved, the first step of the levy would increase the operating levy by $445, which represents a 25% increase over the current operating levy. In 2020, the levy would increase by an additional $217.61 per pupil. The second step in 2020 does represent a 32% increase over the current operating levy authority that was approved by voters in 2007.
Generating $2075.07 not only brings EPS in line with neighboring districts who currently receive more local operating levy revenue per pupil, but allows the district to better offset the annual budget gap of rising costs and state funding that has not kept pace with inflation.
For many years, the State’s general education formula, which provides 70% of the District’s revenue, has not kept pace with inflation. This underfunding and rising costs creates a budget challenge for Minnesota school districts, which is why districts also rely on local support through operating levies to help offset the funding gap.
In EPS, the district has used annual budget reductions to manage the gap and balance its budget. To date, only 10% of the budget adjustments in the last 10 years have come from direct instruction, but with 81% of expenses coming in direct instruction and student support (i.e., counselors, social workers, paraprofessionals, transportation, etc.), future reductions will naturally have a greater impact on the classroom.
The increase proposed in this operating levy will provide dollars for the day to day operations of the district. That is to say, the increase in dollars will allow the district to sustain current programs and services, while also allowing for continuous improvement of curriculum and instructional practices.
The inflationary adjustment included in the 2017 ballot question is part of the 2007 voter-approved operating levy, which expires at the end of the school year (June 30, 2018). It is language that is included in most district operating levies to help keep pace with increasing expenses and rising costs, especially since the per pupil funding from the state, which accounts for the majority of revenue EPS receives, is not tied to inflation.
Per statute, the operating levy will be tied to the inflationary formula as regulated by the Minnesota Department of Education, which has historically amounted to approximately two percent per year.
The board of Independent School District No. 273 (Edina Public Schools) has proposed to increase its general education revenue be the following amounts for taxes payable in the years specified:
- $1,857.46 per pupil for taxes payable in 2018 with an inflationary increase in that amount for taxes payable in 2019; and
- $2,075.07 per pupil for taxes payable in 2020, with an inflationary increase in that amount for taxes payable in 2021 through 2027.
A portion of these proposed referendum revenue authorizations would renew the school district's prior authorization of $1,412.46 per pupil each year which is scheduled to expire after taxes payable in 2017.
The special election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 7. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Some polling places have been combined or changed locations, so it's important that voters check to see where their precinct is scheduled to vote.
The State of Minnesota allows eligible voters to vote early through Absentee Voting. Absentee Voting begins Friday, Sept. 22 and runs through Monday, Nov. 6. Voters can vote absentee either by mail or in person at Edina City Hall.
No. Only residents of the Edina Public Schools District are eligible to vote in the upcoming levy referendum. Residents of the City of Edina who reside in other school districts (e.g. Hopkins, Richfield, Bloomington, St. Louis Park) pay school property taxes to their resident districts, not Edina Public Schools.
There are 12 candidates, two incumbents and 10 newcomers, running for four open seats on the Edina School Board.
If approved, the district estimates that for the median value home in Edina, property owners would see a tax increase in the first year of $182 per year, or about $15 per month. When the levy authority increases in 2020, preliminary estimates show that homeowners would see an additional increase of $10 per year for every $100,000 of home value. On a $500,000 home that would equate to $50 per year or a little over $4 per month.
Edina Public Schools has a history of strong financial management and responsible fiscal stewardship, which has been independently verified:
- Strong Credit Rating (Aaa from Moody's Investor Services)
- Recipient of 12 State Financial Reporting Awards
- Unqualified "Clean" Financial Audit according to the District's independent financial auditors
- Strong financial reserves in alignment with District policy and governmental accounting standards
- Low debt usage relative to allowable debt under state statute
The District’s operating levy is based on student enrollment and not the Net Tax Capacity (NTC) of the community. Therefore, while an increase in NTC of Edina provides more property wealth for the community, it does not change the amount of revenue the District receives from its operating levy. However, the increased NTC of Edina can benefit the individual homeowner, as properties are taxed at rates according their home value.
Therefore, the distribution of the District’s local revenue is spread out over more and increased home values, but the amount the District receives stays the same. .
The school district portion of taxes on one’s property tax statement includes two kinds of levies: Voter Approved Levies and Non-Voter Approved Levies
Voter-approved levies go before voters through a referendum of which there are three kinds — operating levy, facilities (construction) bond, and capital projects (technology) levy. Funds from these levies must be used as intended and shared with voters at the time of the referendum. The District is not allowed to use the 2015 construction bond nor the 2011 technology levy for daily operating expenses. The renewal and increase of the expiring operating levy will support ongoing daily expenses.
Non-voter approved levies are those that are set by state formula or allocated to the District based on student / local need. Such levies must meet specific guidelines, be approved by the school board and approved by the state. Examples of such non-voter approved levies include: community service (community education), career and technical education, crime prevention and long-term facilities maintenance.
The following represents the District General Fund revenue by source:
* EPS receives most (79%) State Funding through the General Ed Formula, with the remaining 21% coming from other State sources.
The following highlights how the district spends its general fund dollars:
General Fund Expenditures by Object -
Salaries & Benefits
General Fund Expenditures by Program - EPS spends 81 cents of every dollar on student instruction & instructional support.
|Instruction (Gen Ed)||50%|
|Instruction (Spec Ed)||18%|
|Instructional & Pupil Support||13%|
|Site, Building & Equipment||13%|
The following are some examples of the equivalent of $13 million in budget expenses:
- = 1½ months of daily operating expenses
- = 150 teachers (approx. 25% EPS teachers)
- = 365 paraprofessionals (more than 100% of district’s current para staffing)
- = 200 custodians / clerical staff
- = 75 administrators (more than 100% of district’s current admin staffing)
In EPS, $13 million is more than the annual operating budget of one
EPS Middle School.
Annual Operating Budgets by Site
- EPS Elementary Budget = $5.5 million
- EPS Middle School Budget = $12 million
- EHS Budget = $19 million
Edina Public Schools has a history of strong financial management and fiscal stewardship as noted by:
- 12 straight years of financial reporting awards from the Minnesota Department of Education,.
- Receipt of Aaa credit ratings, the highest rating possible, from both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s. EPS is one of only three districts in Minnesota to achieve the Aaa rating from Moody's and one of two to receive the Aaa rating from Standard & Poor's.
- In its most recent annual financial audit, MMKR, the District’s financial auditors, issued a clean opinion on 2015-16 financial statements, internal controls and compliance reports. The auditors noted that the district’s fiscal health is good, showing strong financial stewardship of taxpayer dollars. In addition to the general fund, the audit also showed positive fund balances for the food service and community education funds.
- According to the district’s April 2017 Bond Issue Summary for the General Obligation Facilities Maintenance and School Building Bond, Series 2017A, the district’s debt ratio compared to allowable debt limits per state statute is significantly lower than allowable under law. Debt limits are set at 15% of a district's actual market value. EPS currently utilizes only 12.5% of its existing statutory debt allowance.
The district recognizes that maintaining adequate fund balance reserves is critical to being fiscally responsible and ensures the district’s long-term ability to meet its financial obligations in order to provide appropriate educational services and programs to all.
To that end, District Policy 702, which is in alignment with the Governmental Accounting Standards Board Statement 54, says that the district will strive to maintain a minimum unassigned general fund balance of balance of 6% of the annual budget plus 2% for cash flow.
The fund balance is used for the purposes of cash flow, legislative shortfalls, innovation, tax abatement, and catastrophic needs. Fund balance reserves are for one-time expenses and not intended to be used for ongoing personnel or operational expenditures.
The District’s current audited unassigned fund balance (i.e. available for general operating expenses) is 8.3%, which would not cover the 12% revenue loss if the operating levy is not renewed.
Annually the District has maintained a balanced budget through prudent financial decisions and annual budget adjustments. This multi-year approach to budget planning is done through a continuous evaluation of how funds and resources are allocated to ensure alignment with the district’s mission of learning.
In so doing, the District has made $8.5 million in adjustments over the last 10 years through reductions, reallocations and revenue generation. Adjustments have been made across the district’s expenditures, with an eye for keeping cuts away from “the classroom” as much as possibly. Of the $8.5 million in adjustments, only 10% of adjustments have come out of direct instruction.
However, as continued adjustments have been made and with 82% of the district’s expenses coming in salaries and benefits, future adjustments will begin to be felt closer to the classroom.
Every school has unique needs, and thus receives varying categorical revenue to support individual student and community needs. That being said, the District regularly looks at its spending in comparison to other districts.
Minnesota school districts are required by law to prepare financial reports and annual budgets. These financial reports include the detailed tracking of revenues and expenditures within Uniform Financial Accounting and Reporting Standards (UFARS) fund classifications in order to meet legislative requirements and provide financial accountability. Each district has somewhat different accounting and reporting requirements for local control and management.
Within the UFARS coding system, the three-digit Consulting Fees/Fees for Services Object Expenditure Code is used to track purchased services. Included in this account code are payments for professional services such as legal, audit, accounting, advertising, custodial, laundry, etc., in special education programs, for contracted service costs provided to staff, and other purchased services not accounted for by other UFARS object codes.
EPS spends approximately $3.4 million, out of a $112 million general operating budget, in Consulting Fees/Fees for Services, with about $147,500 spent on paid consultants providing training, facilitation and/or professional development. Category breakdown:
- 63% = Support & Operations (Health & Safety; Long-Term Facility Maintenance; Special Education; Field Trips; Police Liaison)
- 8% = Activities & Athletic (Entry fees, tournaments, officiating)
- 3% = Buildings & Grounds (maintenance & repair, environmental services )
- 5% = Site Based (printing, graduation, speakers)
- 17% = District-wide (advertising, translations/interpreters, elections, legal, printing, prof association services, software, insurance & benefits contractors, background checks, employee assistance program)
- 4% = Consultants (Staff Development, Trainers, Strategic Planning, Search Consultants)
While each school district aligns its resources and budget to best meet the unique needs of their students, family and communities served, Minnesota school districts are required to use a common accounting system known as UFARS in tracking revenues and expenses. Based on data from the MN Dept. of Education, EPS reviews expenditure comparisons (i.e. by UFARS Program Dimension category) to assess how its spending compares with neighboring and like districts.
Overall, when looking at the different program areas of district expenses, EPS spends more than comparison districts in the areas of regular instruction & special education, is about average in spending for pupil support services & building equipment, and spends less than other districts in administration, instructional support services & vocational education instruction.
Each school district receives revenue depending on the unique needs of the students, family and communities it serves. Prior to a change to a 2013 change in how the State funds public schools, Edina Public Schools received similar operating levy dollars when compared with neighboring districts. Since 2013, many districts have sought increases in local operating levy funding. EPS is now seeking similar funding to help address ongoing funding gaps and rising costs.
The additional costs for the increased square footage resulting from the bond construction (e.g. utilities, custodial staffing, etc.) is currently estimated at $700,000. This amount was factored into the Review and Comment of the facilities project approved by the state and voters in 2015 (estimated at that time to be $800,000). Also included are some one-time supplies/equipment costs.
In addition, the operating cost estimates do not include projected program savings that the district will see once grade 9 is moved to the high school, nor do they take into account additional efficiencies or variables due to potential schedule changes or changes to transportation services.
Thus, the net of additional operating costs will be closer to $500,000. This cost, which is less than one percent of the district’s total operating costs, has been incorporated into the district general operating budget.
As for September 2017, District construction projects are 85 percent bid and are running on-budget. Edina voters approved a $124.9 million facilities bond referendum in May 2015. This was followed by a district-wide, holistic approach to the planning of projects at every site, ensuring that the goals of the overall plan are met and applied consistently across the district, no matter where a project falls on the multi-year construction calendar.
With bidding for 85 percent of the construction projects complete, the budget continues to be on track. The remaining projects — Creek Valley, Highlands and Valley View Middle School — will be bid later this fall, with construction slated to begin next spring.
While the State of Minnesota does allow for operating levy dollars to be used as needed, EPS has no intention of using the operating levy funds for construction or building costs. The need for day-to-day operating expenses is significant. The operating levy is a critical part of the general operating budget and using it for other uses would only result in additional cuts and reductions needing to be made.
Furthermore, the district continues to closely monitor the construction budget approved as part of the 2015 facilities bond referendum. With 85% of the projects bid and underway, the construction budget is on track and the projects are on schedule.
Construction budgeting from the 2015 voter-approved bond referendum has focused on the three goals of the facilities improvement plan:
- Transforming learning spaces - More than 80% of the funding supports the transformation of learning spaces district-wide, including construction of additional learning spaces & renovation of existing spaces, as well as new student furniture to support flexible, adaptable learning spaces that meet changing student needs and teaching styles.
- Enhancing building security - Enhancing the building security at every site accounts for just over six percent of the construction budget. Controlled entrances are being created at each school by reconfiguring main office spaces, and new security technologies are being updated and installed.
- Improving infrastructure - Improvements to district infrastructure, which represent less than 13 percent of the overall budget, addresses the need for improved safety of outdoor learning and competition surfaces, including accessibility for all students and meeting the growing demand for outdoor play spaces. It also includes construction of the new transportation services facility.
The District is utilizing the state approved Review and Comment document for budgeting the 2015 Bond Referendum construction projects. The Review and Comment Document outlines the construction projects at each of the district’s sites. In general, the construction budget is broken down into three general categories.
- Construction - Nearly 75% of the construction budget goes to construction costs, largely materials and labor.
- Testing & Fees - About 11% goes to testing, fees and services, including building permits, surveys, soil borings, plan production & bidding, and inspections. Such expenses pertain to renovated areas, earthwork in addition areas, and demolition in existing spaces, which in some cases are 50 years old. Construction management is also included here, including architects & engineers, construction managers/personnel, and site costs (e.g. trailers, equipment rental, safety director)
- FFE & Contingency - The remaining 14% is split almost evenly between furniture, fixtures and equipment (FFE) for new and renovated learning spaces, and contingency funds held in reserve to address unexpected expenditures (e.g. issues discovered during demolition or a change in material costs).
Construction activities at the Early Learning Center, Concord, Cornelia, Countryside, Normandale,, EHS and the transportation services facility will wrap up over the next couple of months as “punch list” items are completed. The summer work at South View, which focused on mechanical improvements, renovation of the media center, and construction of some extended learning spaces, will also wrap up.
Two projects will extend into the fall of 2017
- Normandale entrance - Renovation construction on Normandale’s main entry and office area, including security enhancements, will occur during fall break in mid-October.
- Edina Activity Center - Completion of the Edina Activities Center at EHS is expected in late fall.
- South View - During the school year, South View construction will focus on the third floor, reconfiguring classroom spaces and creating extended learning areas. To ensure the safety of the area and South View students and staff, the third floor will be closed off and not accessible to students, staff or visitors. There will be a designated entrance for construction workers direct from outdoors so they are separated from the school activities.
- Highlands and Creek Valley - Additions at Highlands and Creek Valley elementary schools will begin in Spring 2018. Summer 2018 construction will include completion of those additions along with renovations at the two elementary schools.
- Valley View – Renovations at Valley View Middle School will begin in early spring, continuing through the summer.
- South View – As construction continues throughout the school year, South View’s projects will be conclude after the summer, which will include classroom renovations, new extended learning spaces, and the relocation of the main entrance to the south side of the building.
Per a 2014 demographic study, the district’s resident population is projected to actually remain about the same or grow slightly (less than one percent a year). That is, the district’s resident number of school-ages students is around 8,500. This is the figure the district uses to assess capacity and from which it creates in annual budget.
State law requires Edina Public Schools to accept open enroll students for which the district has space. Assessing space or capacity is based on the total number of resident students living in Edina Public Schools. The resident student population in EPS is approximately 8,500 (K-12 students).
Currently, about 15% of the district’s resident students choose alternative educational options (e.g. private school, charter, home school, other school districts). In order to maintain the district’s operating budget and comply with state law, EPS accepts students from other districts to open enroll. The district makes up the loss of 15% resident students choosing other options with about 15% open enroll students.
The district must maintain the ability to serve all resident students should they choose to enroll in Edina Public Schools at any time. Thus, according to state law, the district has capacity and must accept open enrollment.
The School Board has taken the position that the district should not seek open enrollment beyond resident capacity. Thus, building capacity is, and will continue to be, designed to accommodate around 8,500 students.
However, if more resident students opt to enroll in EPS, then the district lessens the amount of open enroll students it accepts accordingly to remain around the 8,500-student mark.
The state’s per pupil funding formula (i.e. General Education Formula) follows the student. Thus, EPS receives all state funding for open enrolled students.
As for operating levy dollars, the District receives operating levy funds for the total number of students served. Thus the district receives operating levy funds for all enrolled students, regardless of their home district. Similarly, resident students who choose to open enroll out of Edina Public Schools do not take with them the EPS operating levy.
Edina Public Schools continues to be among the most admired public school systems in the country for one reason: The quality of education we provide every student. Since 1989, Edina Public Schools has been guided by its mission to help each and every student reach their full potential by preparing them with the skills they will need to “thrive in a rapidly changing, culturally diverse, global society.” These words are just as true today as they were nearly 30 years ago.
A quality education depends on each individual and what they want for their child. In Edina Public Schools, we believe that a quality education is determined by several factors, including, among others, standardized test scores and graduation rates, the number of options and opportunities available for students, classroom environment and school climate, and the quality of the teacher and his/her relationship with the student.
Edina Public Schools believes all of these factors and more impact a student’s educational experience and collectively define a quality learning program.