This November, voters in the Anoka-Hennepin School District will be asked to renew the district’s $34.5 million operating levy.
The levy, which is set to expire at the end of next year, currently costs about $356 a year for taxpayers with a $250,000 home, according to the school district. Renewing the levy would allow the district to continue collecting at the same level and would not result in a tax increase.
The operating levy accounts for 9.3% of the district’s operating budget. If voters don’t continue the levy, the district will have to make drastic cuts in and out of the classroom to make up for the loss in revenue, Superintendent David Law said.
“Every single classroom will be impacted by this,” Law said. “If we eliminate elective options at the high school and middle school, that would still require us to raise class sizes significantly and reduce support all throughout the system. There’s not a position that wouldn’t be different.”
Less-popular elective classes would be eliminated, or at least offered less frequently.
At high schools like Champlin Park and Blaine, which have about 150 teachers, a nearly 10% reduction in revenue could result in losing up to 15 teachers, Law said.
With the funding in place, Anoka-Hennepin can run small classes with under 20 kids, like an automotive class that provides students with certification and concurrent enrollment. Without the operating levy, classes like that would need to be cut, Law said.
With a reduction in funding the district may also revert to a schedule with just six periods a day, which would reduce the number of classes students could take. The change would result in students taking 12 fewer classes over the course of their four-year high school careers, Law said.
“It would be reduced opportunities for students,” Jim Skelly, director of communication and public relations, said.
In a February community survey, residents said lack of funding, budget cuts and large classes were the most concerning issues facing the district today.
Of the $34.5 million in funding from the operating levy, $29 million is direct instructional support, Chief Financial Officer Michelle Vargas said.
The last cut the district made was about 10 years ago in the amount of $15 million.
“That one hit the classroom hard, and it was half of (the operating levy),” Vargas said.
Although the levy doesn’t expire this year, renewal will be on the ballot anyway so schools have time to prepare for cuts if voters don’t approve the measure. If the district waited to ask voters until 2022, it would have only two months to make the necessary cuts, Law said.
The district also has a $4.4 million technology levy renewal and three school board members on the ballot this November.
Law said he’s heard asking for a renewal right now is inappropriate due to the economy and the pandemic, but last time the levy was renewed in 2011, the country was in a recession.
“Our community has stood by our schools in hard financial times before,” he said.
The district will provide community engagement regarding the levy in the spring and again in the fall before the vote.
This story has been updated.