On Nov. 5 the Fridley School District will ask the community for permission to more than double its voter-approved operating levy.

The proposed change would increase taxes by $88 a year for a home valued at $150,000, according to the district.

The School Board voted unanimously Aug. 20 to add a levy referendum question to the Nov. 5 ballot. If successful, the referendum would revoke and replace the existing levy, renewed in 2015.

The district proposes a new levy of $497.43 per student, an increase of $310 per student, with inflationary increases each year for 10 years. In its first year, 2020, the new levy would provide $1.5 million for students in the district.

If voters approve the referendum, the existing levy will be revoked, effective after taxes payable in 2019.

The current levy of $187.43 per pupil, which is set to expire in 2026 if not revoked, does not include inflationary increases, but it’s common for school districts to include such increases in referendum proposals, said Fridley Director of Finance and Operations Todd Tillung.

“We’re just following what other districts are currently doing in the metro and across the state,” Tillung told the School Board Aug. 20.

The current funding isn’t enough to fund the district’s needs, such as staffing, class sizes, student programming, student activities and student support, Tillung told the board.

“State funding has not kept up with inflation and costs to fully support staffing needs, academic programs, student support services and student activities,” Tillung said.

Fridley receives less annual revenue per student than school districts of similar sizes to Fridley, Tillung told the board.

The state average for school levy operating referendums and board-approved local optional revenue is $1,357 per student, and the metro average is $1,687, whereas Fridley gets $911.43 per student. These numbers don’t include state funding or aid.

The school district gets $724 in board-approved revenue per student, not including the $187.43 it receives from the levy renewed in 2015. If the new referendum passes in November, Tillung said Fridley’s new amount would total $1,221.43 per student, still below the state average for per-pupil funding.

A survey of the Fridley community showed that people with homes valued at $150,000 would pay a maximum of $88 a year in additional taxes for the operating levy, which is why the district landed on a number that is still below the state average, according to Jael McLemore, the district’s communication and community relations director.

The School Board voted unanimously to put the question on the ballot.

The question will be: “Shall the school district’s existing referendum revenue authorization be revoked and the increase in the revenue proposed by the board of Independent School District No. 14 be approved?” Voters will choose “Yes” or “No.”

The district will offer the community opportunities to learn more about the proposed referendum before voting in November.

If voters reject the referendum request, the existing levy will remain in place.

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