Bloomington relies on voter-approved referenda for 11.4% of its annual operating funds. Local referenda are part of school funding in Minnesota. All locally approved referendum dollars stay in the local community.
We have earned a reputation for being forward-thinking in education and finances are the same. The current operating referendum passed by voters in 2007 expires in 2019. On or before November 2018, voters need to extend the referendum again or it will lapse and immediately reduce the district’s revenue by $17.1 million annually or 11.4 percent of the annual operating budget.
An operating levy funds learning activities and day-to-day operations. It is different from a bond or capital projects, which usually funds building projects. The Bloomington referendum on Nov. 7 is for an operating levy, not for building or capital projects.
Referendum funding has been part of the school funding mix in Minnesota for many years. It allows local communities to provide funding for their schools based on local priorities.
Today, nearly every Minnesota school district relies on a local operating levy for some funding. The state counts on local referenda to cover part of the cost for education in Minnesota.
In the early 1990s the legislature set limits, including capping the total amount of per-pupil revenue a district may have and limiting the length of time that new referenda may run.
Bloomington has the authority to have $465 more per pupil per year. The Board is seeking voter approval for those funds to remain competitive with our neighboring and comparable school districts.
Bloomington voters approved levies for school operations in 1995, 1999, 2000, 2003 and 2007.
Bloomington receives 70 percent of its funding from the state, but the state is an unreliable partner. State funding has not kept pace with inflation during the last 20 years. We are projecting a 1-2 percent increase in funding from the state, but expenses increase 3-5 percent per year.
Until now, we have relied on enrollment growth to increase revenue annually and keep pace with inflation when the state did not. As we reach capacity, that revenue will plateau and a local tax increase will be needed to maintain the level of excellence our community has come to expect.
Referendum: Ballot question put forth to voters. Minnesota requires a simple majority to pass.
Operating Referendum: Funds day-to-day operations (salaries and benefits, supplies, utilities, curriculum, transportation). Must be approved by voters.
Capital Projects Referendum: Strictly designated for specific projects (technology, safety & security). Capital funds cannot be used for operating expenses. Must be approved by voters. When approved by a voter referendum, school districts may levy for no longer than ten years the amount authorized for specific capital projects. Revenue from the levy must be placed in a special account and used only for the approved purposes.
Levy: An amount the school district collects through local property taxes. Some levy amounts are set by the state; others are at the discretion of the School Board, and others are approved by local voters. An operating levy is approved by voters.