School Board approves 4-percent levy hike

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December 31, 2012
By: Dylan Thomas
Dylan Thomas

The School Board approved a plan to raise Minneapolis Public Schools’ property tax levy 4 percent in 2013.

The vote cast Dec. 11 went 7–1 in favor of the levy hike, with just Board Chair Alberto Monserrate casting what he termed a “vote of conscience” against the resolution.

“One of the reasons I decided to vote against this is I thought the hundreds of people who voiced against this increase in levy needed some kind of representation,” Monserrate said. “But I was also shocked by the level of disinformation they have.”

Monserrate said he would “continue to vote against any tax-levy increase” until the district engaged in more substantive discussions with city taxpayers and other district stakeholders to dispel myths about declining enrollment and overstated levels of per-pupil funding, and to give taxpayers a clearer picture of how the district spends its funds.

Several board members who cast votes for the levy increase described it as a difficult but necessary choice to maintain adequate funding levels for a district that serves high numbers of homeless, English-language learning and special education students. When schools aren’t adequately funded at the state and national level, districts must turn to property tax payers, explained Board Member Jill Davis.

Said Davis: “I’m going to support this levy but with a lot of resentment, because we are not funding our schools adequately at a state or a national level.”

The district’s levy on property taxes due in 2013 is expected to bring in about $172.4 million. District administrators originally proposed raising the levy 7.4 percent, but the board rejected that proposal.

Levying for the maximum amount allowed under state law would have brought in an additional $6.7 million next year. Steve Fletcher, executive director of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, a local nonprofit, was one of two people who spoke before the vote and criticized the board for not aiming higher — if only to spark a community discussion.

“I’m here to say tax us more, invest in our kids,” Fletcher implored. “That being said, we know property taxes are not the best way to do this.”

He encouraged board members to advocate at the state capitol for undoing funding shifts that delayed state aid payments to schools. Monserrate said he would join him there.

The district levy will raise 2013 property tax bill on a home with the city’s median value of $171,000 by $61.