Frequently Asked Questions about the Centennial Levy

2018 Centennial Levy FAQs   (updated 10/23/18)                                                                                                                                 

What if the levy fails to pass?

Operational: We will continue to reduce our budget to balance our revenues and expenditures. From a practical perspective, more staff, programs and services will be reduced.

Capital: We will not able to fully address the safety and security improvements on our high school campus. This includes the full, completion of the link, water and sewer infrastructure work, rehabilitation of the hockey arena to ensure safety, addressing lighting and sound in both fine arts facilities in the district, replacing aging and out of date technology (ie. Smart Boards and projectors), adding additional security cameras across the district, and replacing aging furniture and fixtures.

Why is the District asking for such a large increase?

The District acknowledges that the proposed levy may be burdensome. Unfortunately, the Centennial community does not benefit from a large business/corporate tax base to offset tax increases for homeowners. Being an equity poor school district, coupled with the lack of sustainable state funding, has led to a chasm. Since 2003, state funding to school districts has not kept up with cost of living increases. Had adequate cost of living increases been provided, it would have generated approximately $4.23 million for Centennial, and local referendums would not be necessary.

Why has the district asked for so many levies?

  1. We are an equity poor district. Approximately 20% of the districts in Minnesota have a low industry business presence in their communities. This results in our residential taxpayers and small business owners carrying more of the burden of the taxes. In Centennial, a $100,000 home is taxed $188 which results in $888 worth of revenue per student. In Hopkins, the same $100,000 homeowner is taxed $192 which results in $2,439 worth of revenue per student. That is almost a 3:1 difference.
  2. Since 2003, the state of Minnesota has not kept up with inflation. The difference from that date to present has grown to $4.23 million this year in lost revenue. If the state of Minnesota had kept up with inflation and funded schools accordingly, Centennial would not have to ask taxpayers to support a levy.
  3. Centennial has needs that need to be met and because of the first two points, we have to ask for support. Schools are the only government entity that has to ask taxpayers to vote for tax increases.


Will you ask again next year?

Assuming if we are successful in 2018, Centennial would not ask voters for support unless there is unforeseen loss in state funding.

If Centennial is unsuccessful in the 2018 campaign, we would reengage our community and school board in a dialogue to determine our next steps.

If we decide not to go out again in 2019, Centennial would continue to make budget reductions.

In 5 years?

Assuming if we are successful in 2018, Centennial would not ask voters for support unless there is unforeseen loss in state funding. In this scenario, Centennial would go out to voters for a renewal of the 2018 levy in the later years of this 10-year ask.

How does Centennial's existing operating referendum per student compare with other districts?

 

Operating Referendum Per Student

Average – All Districts

$802.73

Average – Metro

$1,105.63

Average – Rural

$749.72

 

 

Centennial ISD12(Existing)

$464.19

 

How would passing the levy impact class sizes?

It will allow us to maintain and in certain cases lower class sizes.

What are the district guidelines for class size now?

See Policy 536 for information.

How do class sizes at Centennial compare to the average size in the metro? Are class sizes at Centennial increasing?

Yes, class sizes are increasing and Centennial has above average class sizes in the metro. Centennial also no longer has instructional paraprofessionals to assist teachers in the classroom with struggling learners.

Centennial School District Class Size Averages

 

2009-10

2018-19

Metro Averages*

Kindergarten

20.4

22.1

21.2

Grade 1

21.8

24.8

22.1

Grade 2

23.7

25.4

23.4

Grade 3

24.8

27.3

24.2

Grade 4

29.4

30.7

25.6

Grade 5

26.7

32.9

26.4

Grade 6-8 English

28.4

32.4

26.6

Grade 6-8 Math

28.9

32.6

26.4

Grade 6-8 Social Studies

26.0

32.0

28.3

Grade 6-8 Science

26.0

33.5

28.8

Grade 9-12 English

28.0

32

27.8

Grade 9-12 Math

27.8

33

28.0

Grade 9-12 Social Studies

30.4

35

29.2

Grade 9-12 Science

25.1

30

27.8

Grades 9-12 Art

28.6

37

27.0

Grades 9-12 German, French, Spanish

20-33

36-41

26.1

Grades 9-12 Business/Technical Education

32.5

36

25.7

Health

27.8

36

30.8

Foods

31.0

36

26.5

Woods

22.8

32

23.4

Physical Education

29.5

38

29.8


*These averages are compiled by Metro ECSU from enrollment data collected from 36 Twin Cites Metro School Districts. (March 2018)

Will passing the levy change activities or their fees? School supply lists?

Activities and fees: Passing the levy will enable us to continue to offer activities at their current levels and price points for the foreseeable future.

School supply lists: Passing the levy would have no impact on school supply lists.

Can money from the levy be used to support student mental health needs?

Yes, proceeds can be used for that purpose, however, our plan provides more licensed teachers and paraprofessionals. We believe the additional adults will positively impact the social and emotional needs of our students.

Our school is consistently ranked high, so why do we need to pass a levy?

We are fortunate to have a highly engaged community of learners and a dedicated staff who works tirelessly to support their success. Over the last nine years, we have reduced $17.2 million. These reductions have impacted programs and services and staffing throughout our district. Results of these cuts have created significant gaps in how we educate our students. Long-term, we cannot sustain these significant instructional losses as they have an impact on our student success. Class sizes and classroom supports will be further impacted. We are at a breaking point. We have done everything to be fiscally prudent and maintain as much of the services and programs as we possibly can. We can no longer maintain this course. We need funding now.

If you’ve already reduced staff by 60 positions and yet the District continues to excel in academics, are those positions needed?

The needs of kids are not diminishing, they are increasing. Over the past five years, we have reduced $9.3 million from our budget. The majority of those reductions were personnel or program and service-related. Those responsibilities to educate and support students for their academic, social, and emotional needs don’t go away. As a result of these reductions, class sizes have increased and teachers have fewer resources to meet the needs of all students, including paraprofessional support. Further cuts will significantly impact our students.

One significant area of concern is class sizes. Results from a survey by parents and the community indicate class size is one of their top priorities. We have the highest number of students in our classrooms in the metro according to a 2018 ECSU study. Levy funding will enable us to hire back some teachers and paraprofessionals, maintaining class sizes and decreasing class sizes in some grade levels.

The District has made reductions in administration. Within the last three years the Dean of Students and the Assistant Director positions at the Centennial Area Learning Center, Activities Director at the Middle School, and 2.0 full-time equivalent leadership positions in the Department of Teaching and Learning have been cut.

The District surveyed comparable schools in the region and gathered data on the ratio of administration/assistant principals to students. Centennial is appropriately staffed at the Middle School based on the ratios for administration to students. On average, the 10 comparable Districts have one assistant principal for every 750 students; Centennial’s ratio is one assistant principal for every 799 students. Compared to other high schools in the region, there is one assistant principal for every 650 students; Centennial’s ratio is one assistant principal for nearly 700 students.

Reductions of administrators at the school sites could create an unsafe environment for students and staff. Reducing one assistant principal at each secondary site would result in a ratio of 1:1,500 students at the Middle School and 1:1,050 students at Centennial High School.

Why is the passage of the operational levy question (Question #1) necessary for the passage of the capital levy (Question #2)? –I recommend posting this question on the FAQ section of the website.

The District invited a group of community members—residents, parents, staff—to serve on a levy steering committee. The group reviewed the survey data from a community survey conducted in early 2018 regarding support for Centennial Schools as well as learning about the District’s needs. Their recommendation was to make the approval of the second question contingent on the approval of the first and the District strongly supported the committee’s decision. The strategic decision was based on the fact that the District cannot continue to manage its sites without the proper resources. The Centennial facilities need to be in top shape, however, operational money is needed to sustain the excellence in education the District delivers.

What is the “link?”

The “link” is an outdoor hallway between the High School East and the High School West buildings. Approximately six times/day we have thousands of students moving from one building to the next via this outdoor hallway.

Why is enclosing the “link” necessary now?

For the past 21 years, we have been one of the few, if not the only, high school in the state with an outdoor hallway. When we constructed and opened Centennial Middle School in 1998, the high school expanded its footprint into the old middle school building on the high school site (the current East Building). In the past five months, there have been 23 school shootings in the U.S. which has made this solution no longer acceptable. We know this outdoor hallway is a security risk and one we must address. In our plan, we will be able to connect the two buildings with an enclosed hallway with classrooms and learning spaces. Once this is complete, students will no longer have to go outside to transition from class to class.

Is there a levy in place now? Would this increase what we’re already paying, or be all new taxes?

There are multiple voter-approved levies in place at this time. The first is the 2014 Capital levy ($49 million) which renovated and reimagined all of our academic buildings in our district. In 2015, we renewed an operational levy in the amount of $169.13 to maintain some of the current staff, programs, and services we provide.

The questions we are proposing will increase taxes. If the capital levy passes, it will increase taxes on home values of $225,000 by $5.43 per month ($22,215,000). If the operational levy passes, it will increase on home values of $225,000 taxes by $27.74 per month ($650 per student).

Why is the district asking local taxpayers, instead of the state?

Centennial lobbies at the state and federal levels every year and establishes meetings with elected officials to address the inequity and the lack of adequate funding. Unless there is legislation to change current funding practices, Centennial (and other property poor districts like us) will have to rely on the taxpayers to close the gap.

There has been so much new construction over the past few years. Why wasn’t that money used for staff?

Dissimilar to how we manage our monies at home, the district has two buckets of funding we receive. The first is capital dollars. These dollars can only be used on brick and mortar projects such as roofs, flooring, HVAC systems, furniture, etc. (all the physical improvements we made in our buildings with the 2014 capital levy dollars). These dollars cannot be used for staff or any operational costs in the district.

Operational dollars are used to pay for our day-to-day costs of running the district. Since 80% of our costs are people, the majority of the funding goes to pay for that purpose. The additional dollars would be used for curriculum, utilities, services, etc.

Do students really need access to so much technology? Why can’t we make cuts in the iPads/laptops/technology spending to balance our budget?

Students need to be 21st Century learners. There are very few businesses and industries that are not reliant on technology and the need for a trained, competent workforce. Centennial has technology in the district, but it’s much less than most districts around us. We are not a 1:1 district, but we do offer access to iPads, Chromebooks, and the computer lab for learning. Cutting out the purchases of technology would not solve our overall budgetary issues.

Why does school finance seem so complicated?

Because it is. In the previous answers, we’ve articulated we have two categories of funding-capital and operational that can only be used for certain purposes. We also received federal dollars that have restrictions and stipulations on where and how we spend those dollars. We receive special education funding that is restricted to those students with disabilities who are on an Individualized Education Program.  We also receive grant funding which is also tied to specific purposes. As you can see, it makes budgeting very cumbersome and difficult. That is why we are mandated to have an audit, every year, to ensure fidelity in our spending and adherence to mandates.

If approved, how long would it take for schools to hire more staff and make building improvements?

Operational dollars would be conferred in July 1, 2019. We would hire additional staff and services for the 2019-2020 school year.

Capital dollars we would look at selling the bonds in the winter of 2019. Our goal would be to be shovel-ready for most of the projects in summer 2019, depending on the availability of construction schedules.

What would happen if we close open enrollment? Would that fix anything?

We would lose funding and would need to make additional cuts. Not taking open enrolled students would have a negative impact on our resident students.  

Why does Centennial accept so many open enrolled students?

Minnesota is a choice state. School districts are obligated to accept nonresident enrollment requests per guidelines specified by Minnesota Statute 124D.03. While this statute does provide some grounds for limiting nonresident enrollments, the District cannot completely close the doors to families outside the district.

Does accepting open enrolled students negatively impact Centennial’s budget?

No, when nonresident students choose to attend Centennial, the state funding that would have gone to their home district comes to Centennial. Here is why open enrollment makes a difference at Centennial:

Based on the 2017-2018 school year, open enrollment generated $10,598,130 in revenues, including state and local levy dollars. After instruction cost expenses, the net revenue for last year is $7,068,693. Without open enrollment funds, we would have over $7 million less in the budget. For every $1 million loss, it’s a reduction of 12 teachers; the loss of open enrollment dollars is equivalent to 84 teachers.

As a district, nonresident enrollments have been used to balance class sizes and maintain programming for resident students that otherwise may not be possible without the funding.

Also, fixed costs (e.g. heat, electricity, snow removal, building maintenance) would be borne exclusively by local tax payers without these added funds.

Wouldn’t class sizes be smaller without open enrolled students?
No, the additional revenues generated by open enrollment actually reduce class sizes for resident students. Without the open enrollment revenue, which exceeds the cost of hiring teachers to teach the open enrolled students, class sizes would increase significantly for resident students.

Without open enrolled students:

  • Centennial would not be able to offer the necessary programs and services to students including a variety of choice/elective courses.
  • Staffing would be reduced.
  • Class sizes would increase.
 

How is the rate of inflation determined for question #1?
The annual inflation adjustment for FY 2019 is currently estimated at 2.39 percent. This is an increase from the estimated 2.02 percent that was used to set school district levies last year.  The annual inflation adjustment for FY 2020 is currently estimated at 2.24 percent which will be used to calculate initial levy authority this fall.  The final inflation adjustment ratio is based on the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers for all items as published monthly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.