In many towns and cities across Minnesota, there are school board elections and local ballot questions with levy referendums and levy renewals. A levy is a special tax that property owners will pay for a specified number of years. The ballot initiative specifies what the levy is for right on the ballot. Some examples of ballot initiatives:
- An operating levy is to pay regular budget expenses for the school district
- A levy to pay back (with interest) a bond, usually for construction, remodeling or equipment for the school district.
It’s difficult to give a blanket analysis that covers all referendum situations across the state, but there are a few things you should consider when thinking about whether to vote yes or no on your school district’s local levy.
- Is the levy a new tax or the renewal of an existing tax? The renewal of an existing levy (all other things remaining the same) should not increase your taxes unless it is renewed for a HIGHER amount.
- What is it for?
- Does it make sense given the situation of the district? For example if your school district enrollment is not growing, is the school district looking to increase capacity?
- How many times has your district put a request for more of our property tax money? If these requests are frequent, and your district is not growing or facing some exceptional challenges it may point to a failure to prioritize. What are they doing with their other revenue streams such as state and sometimes federal funds?
It’s important to get the complete picture on what is going on in your district. Usually, districts will have their justification in their newsletters and on their school district website. (Most websites available at the links on the map). Other sources are your local daily and weekly newspapers, letters to the editor may address the levy as well and not necessarily follow the editorial position of the paper. Social media is an ideal place for people who want to talk about a ballot question to organize. Do a search on your local neighborhood and city groups on facebook.
And remember to GO VOTE!