Vote ‘yes’ Nov. 6 to continue Sartell-St. Stephen’s commitment to education

Mike KnaakEditorial, Print Sartell - St. Stephen0 Comments

Voters in the Sartell-St. Stephen school district will be asked on Nov. 6 to approve a levy to fund the second stage of the district’s master plan approved three years ago.

As the new high school, the first part of the master plan, nears completion, district leaders are asking voters to approve funding to operate it and to support other district efforts.

Voters should continue their commitment to education by approving the measure.

The levy will raise about $1.8 million.

The annual financial impact is projected to be an additional $82 per $100,000 of assessed value, according to the district. For example, the tax increase will cost the owner of a property with a $200,000 market value $165.24 a year.

The Sartell area has grown dramatically during the past three decades, in part because parents want their children to attend Sartell’s schools. People find Sartell an attractive place to live and the city’s popularity means everyone’s property values increase.

When the district formed in 1968, 850 students attended class. By 1993, enrollment more than doubled to 1,822.

This year, 4,045 students fill the classrooms, an increase of 150 students from the year before.

That rapid growth meant the district built one high school, then replaced it with a larger high school and now another new high school is nearing completion on Pinecone Road. Each of those older buildings will be used to accommodate the growing number of students in the lower grades.

Most of the money raised by the levy will pay for operations at the new high school. When it opens next fall, it will add an additional 300,000 square feet to bring the district’s total space to about a million square feet.

That additional space means more costs for maintenance and heating/cooling.

At the current high school, students’ cars overflow the parking lot and cars line neighborhood streets. That won’t happen at the new building because the parking lot is bigger. But that also increases costs to snow plow the lots.

The new high school’s 80 additional acres doubles the current outdoor space and with it costs for groundskeeping go up too.

A portion of the new money will help the district maintain class sizes, continue preschool through grade 12 programs and provide flexible learning activities. The money will not go for salary increases.

District leaders point out current Sartell per-pupil revenue is among the lowest in the state. Sartell-St. Stephen ranks 324th out of 330 districts with a yearly per-student revenue of $9,134.

Of the $1.8 million raised by the new levy, about $600,000 will come from the state of Minnesota because of equalization formulas.

If you are not convinced to vote yes, please attend one of the community information sessions. At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10, there’s a session at the Sartell Middle School hub. Two weeks later at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24, there’s a meeting in the Sartell High School auditorium.

The district has also set up a website with more information at http://www.sartell.k12.mn.us/2018levyforlearning. The site includes a tax impact calculator to figure the exact tax impact on your property.

The district makes a strong case for the levy that will complete the commitment to education approved by the school board in January 2016. Support the plan with a yes vote on Nov. 6

Author: Mike Knaak

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