APS Column: Thank you for ongoing support

Published 9:53 pm Friday, September 23, 2022

We have had a tremendous start to the new school year at Austin Public Schools. You can feel the energy and spirit in our classrooms and hallways.

This week, as we celebrate homecoming, I wanted to take a moment to thank our families and caregivers, staff and communities for their ongoing commitment and support. You play such a vital role in the success of our students.

Across Minnesota, strong schools mean stronger communities and local economies. The Austin Public School district is an important community asset that helps attract new families and businesses to our community while supporting the needs of a skilled workforce. Over the next several weeks, district residents will be making an important decision that will impact the future of our schools.

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On the ballot this November is a proposal to increase the school operating levy to provide an additional $470 per student to help the district stabilize its finances now and in the future.

Over the past decade, state funding has failed to keep up with rising education costs. Currently, the school district faces a $3 million deficit for the next school year. While we have worked hard to manage costs and maximize one-time federal grants, the district will need additional funding to avoid budget cuts impacting staffing, educational programs, and extracurricular activities. Our operating levy is the lowest in the region at $42.70 per pupil annually.

If the referendum is approved, the levy increase will generate an additional $2.4 million yearly for the district’s operating budget, including staff salaries, transportation costs, support services, and student programming. With the additional financial support, the district will be able to retain staff, maintain class sizes, continue providing vocational training and college credit options, and preserve fine arts and athletic programs. If the operating levy increase is approved, the average homeowner in our district would see a property tax increase of $12 a month on a home valued at $170,000.

We recognize that this is a significant community investment. With that in mind, I encourage everyone to visit AccelerateAustin.org to learn more about the district’s financial challenges and our plan to address them. We want every resident to make their voice heard, so please don’t forget to vote. Early voting begins this week on Friday, Sept. 23, and you can vote early by mail or in person at your county elections office through Nov. 7. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8.