The STMA School Board approved forming a steering team to explore an operating levy on November 2, 2021.
STMA is facing a perfect financial storm, but not one of its own making. The pandemic has produced an unforeseeable combination of multiple short-term and long-term budget impacts that lie outside of the District’s control.
Fortunately, the District started the pandemic in solid financial condition, but even the most prudent of fiscal planning could not have anticipated these impacts and its effects on students, families, and school staff.
Why is an operating referendum being considered?
- Enrollment drives the funding formula. There has been a significant decrease in student enrollment in FY2021 largely due to the pandemic resulting in a revenue loss of $2.5 million. Further, stabilizing long-term student enrollment results in less revenue than previous years. Per a recent demographic study, the District projects steady but minimal enrollment growth through 2026. Enrollment is the central driver in revenue for the District.
- The pandemic created significant and unforeseen expenses. These expenses include, but are not limited to, PPE, cleaning supplies, substitute staff, unemployment costs, technology, and more.
- COVID-19 created unexpected disruptions in school revenue. Loss of reliable revenue streams have temporarily halted including student activity fees, facility rentals, Community Education class revenue, gate receipts, food services meals, and more.
- The state funding formula continues to work against STMA students and families. STMA remains the lowest funded district in per pupil revenue due to an unfair funding formula and is ranked 330 out of 330 school districts in the state (per SEE 2021 Rankings).
- STMA now needs local taxpayer help to get beyond this pandemic and continue our tradition of excellence. STMA does more with less every day. We have one of the strongest statewide track records of minimizing overall taxes and maximizing opportunities and experiences we offer to our students, but the pandemic has created the need for a sustainable source of local revenue that can be spent on teachers, programs, and maintaining our excellence in and out of the classroom that our students deserve and families expect.
- STMA is one of the few districts that does not have a voter approved operating referendum. Districts we compare ourselves to all have an additional per pupil voter approved operating referendum. For example PER PUPIL, Hopkins has $1,824, Wayzata and Minnetonka $1,780, Eden Prairie $1,592, Elk River $1,217, Buffalo $750, and Monticello $523. STMA has $0. Click here to see operating referendum data for STMA compared to neighboring, Lake Conference, and comparable school districts.
So what is the bottom line?
STMA needs to act now to sustain excellence and set the pathway to a promising future for all STMA students and families.
For 2021-2022, the district will be taking necessary steps to reduce expenses while making every possible effort to minimize disruptions to students, activities, and programming. These cuts will be painful and result in some increased class sizes. These are cuts that we must make if we are to sustain our strong tradition of excellence.
However, as we move forward and emerge out of this pandemic, we remain confident as a school district that with the passage of local levy, and as other revenue streams stabilize, we will be able to quickly restore our strong tradition of excellence and remain a great investment for taxpayers and continue to be one of the best school districts in Minnesota.
In the absence of sustainable local revenue, we will likely have to continue an annual round of reductions into 2022-2023 that will further impact students and the classroom.