Operating Referendum - Vote Nov. 3
After watching the District reduce expenses by $7.5 million and eliminate more than 90 jobs over the last two years, parents and community members have encouraged the District to put a referendum on the November ballot.
- Voter approval of an operating referendum is the District’s only option for avoiding a third consecutive year of staff and program reductions.
- Approving a referendum unlocks $103 per student in new funding from the state.
So, at its regularly scheduled meeting in August, the Cambridge-Isanti School Board unanimously voted to place an operating referendum on the November 2020 ballot seeking additional school funding. View the presentation by Superintendent Nate Rudolph and Finance Director Chris Kampa.
We are taking a conservative approach, with a phased-in referendum that will allow us to address immediate budget shortfalls, add back our strategic priorities slowly and responsibly, stretch funds as far as they will go, and phase in another increase in three years. In short, we are asking for what we need when we need it.
If voters approve an operating referendum, the District will qualify for additional equalization aid and the state will pay $103 per student in new funding.
How will the funds be used?
Avoid future cuts: The district budget is balanced this year, but there will be a $1.7 million deficit the following year (FY22)
Strategically reduce class sizes: Current class sizes are much higher than parents want; high school is as high as 39 students in a class
Expand career, technical, and apprenticeship programs: Partnerships will be needed to expand opportunities with minimal investment
Restore custodial and school cleaning to a daily schedule: Cleaning was to be on an every-other-day rotation; COVID funds are increasing cleaning services for this year, but COVID funding ends in December 2020.
Enhance STEM (Science, Technology Engineering and Math) programs
Provide youth mental health supports and social-emotional learning
Recruit and retain high-quality teachers and staff
Why is a referendum needed?
Two years of budget reductions
Over the last two years, the District has reduced expenses by $7.5 Million (on a $60 Million budget). There is nothing left to cut; we are to the bone. The decision to go to referendum has been thoughtful and the District considers this action a last resort for maintaining quality schools. Budget reductions have resulted in:
- Teacher layoffs and increased class sizes
- Reduced cleaning and custodial staff time (to an every other day rotation)
- Reductions in administration and delayed curriculum updates
- Eliminated innovation, instructional coaches and instructional assistant positions
- Layoffs for community education
- Increased student fees for activities
Without additional funding, the district faces another $1.7 million in reductions for next year.
The District's funding challenges won’t go away. Without local support, budget challenges will get worse. The District has historically relied on state funding increases to balance its budget, but the state is facing a $4.7 Billion deficit and is unlikely to increase school funding. The last time the state had this large a deficit, school funding remained flat with a 0% increase for two years and the state delayed school payments, forcing many districts into short-term borrowing to cover payroll.
Today, most Minnesota school districts rely on a local operating referendum for some funding (more than two-thirds have voter-approved referendum). The state counts on local referenda as part of the overall funding strategy to cover the cost for education in MN. Without a locally approved referendum, school districts have less funding to educate students. On average, school districts receive 20% of their funding from local property taxes; Cambridge-Isanti gets only 10% of its budget from local funding; our schools have gone without the other 10%. As a result, Cambridge-Isanti Schools receive $1.6 Million less revenue than the average school district of the same size.
Ranking in the Bottom for Revenue Per Student
Even among local districts, Cambridge-Isanti Schools are last in school funding. The Mississippi 8 is not only our athletic conference, these are districts that we compete with when families are looking to buy a home in the area and that our students will compete with for jobs in the future.
Revenue Per Student Rankings (source MDE 2019 Disparity Report):
- BIG LAKE (*local referendum and receives additional state aid)
- BECKER (*local referendum and receives additional state aid)
- MONTICELLO (*local referendum and receives additional state aid)
- CHISAGO LAKES (*local referendum and receives additional state aid)
- PRINCETON (receives additional state aid & local levy)
- NORTH BRANCH (receives additional state aid & local levy)
- ST. FRANCIS (receives additional state aid & local levy)
In recent years, we have delayed new curriculum purchases, deferred maintenance, and extended the life of our technology beyond what is recommended. We have had reductions in administrative, custodial, and support personnel. Class sizes have increased. We are now faced with two options: 1) seek voter approval of additional funding through a local operating referendum or 2) implement the third year of budget reductions, another $1.7 million for the fiscal year 2022, with subsequent annual cuts to contain costs for the next three years. Additional funding is needed if we are to remain competitive with neighboring districts and ensure students are better prepared for the workforce and/or college.
Our schools have more than a 150-year history in this community. Schools have always been important, and our community values education. This a great place to raise a family. In fact, a large percent of our alumni return to this community to raise their families. So, the question on the ballot is whether future generations of Bluejackets will be afforded the same high-quality education that previous generations have received.
What will the referendum cost?
Approval of the referendum will cost property owners approximately $25 per month on an average home ($200,000 value). The referendum would generate an additional $800 per student for 2021-2023, and increase to $1,200 per student in 2024-2030 for an additional $15 per month on the levy. This is a fiscally conservative approach that asks only for what is needed when it is needed.