ORONO EXCELLENCE: 2016 Operating Levy and Bond Referendum Learn More

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What is being proposed?

Following a thorough planning process and research demonstrating needs, the Orono School Board voted unanimously to place two school funding questions on the ballot of the November 8 General Election:

  • Question one will seek voter approval to generate an additional $1.25 million annually to support classroom instruction and school operations through an increase in our operating levy.
  •  Question two will seek voter approval to construct an 80,000-square-foot indoor activities center attached to Orono High School.

Why is an operating levy proposed?

Without the increase in funding, the district could face an operating deficit of $900,000 by the 2017-18 school year. Basic state education funding has dropped by more than $600 per student from 2003 to 2016 when adjusted for inflation and pupil weighting changes. This amounts to a loss of $1.8 million for us in 2016-17.

 In addition, many Special Education mandates remain unfunded by the state and federal governments, requiring districts to make up the difference with General Fund dollars. For Orono, that results in the reallocation of $1.4 million for the 2016-17 school year alone.

Why is a bond referendum proposed?

Participation in activities has grown considerably. As a result, students are practicing late into the evening, compromising family meals and time for homework. In the Wright County Conference, Orono is among the districts with the least amount of gym space. In addition, the cities served by the Orono School District do not have community centers like those enjoyed by schools in neighboring communities such as Chanhassen, Maple Grove and Plymouth.

The center would contain five multipurpose courts, fitness center, indoor track, suspended walking track and flexible learning spaces. Additional instructional space at Orono Schumann Elementary and Orono Intermediate School would be gained by relocating Community Education to the center. In addition to enhancing and expanding educational facilities for our students, the center would be available for use by community members.

Why now?

The School Board’s Finance and Facilities Subcommittee is always studying ways to maximize resources. As a result, the District has realized major savings in transportation, gas and electric utilities, and by renegotiating contracts with vendors. And yet, all of these efforts are not sufficient to close the gap between revenue and expenditures. An operating levy allows residents to supplement education at the local level.

With interest rates at historic lows, the School Board refinanced three sets of outstanding bonds to save taxpayers $6.2 million, and could enjoy similarly low rates to construct and finance a new indoor activities center.

In addition, with presidential and state elections this fall, the District saves the cost of conducting a separate special election and encourages maximum voter participation.

What will it cost?

  • If question one is approved, the average homeowner ($400,000 market value) would see an increase in school taxes of approximately $13.33 per month.
  • If question two is approved, the average homeowner would see an increase of $4.08 per month when combined with the savings of the bond refinance.
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Orono Public Schools