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Osseo School District 279 Levy Requests Voted Down

An operational levy and technology levy request were on the 2012 general election ballot.

Voters in the Osseo School District 279 have decided to vote down two school funding requests for the district.

The operating levy request, according to the District 279 website, was to “increase academic achievement” in the district was on the Nov. 6 ballot along as was the technology levy request was to expand classroom technology.

The operating levy request, question one on the ballot, failed by 116 votes with 50.09% of voters (33,908) voting no to the levy and 49.91% of voters (33,792) casting a yes vote, according to the unofficial results on the Minnesota Secretary of State website.

The technology levy request, question two on the ballot, failed by 2,287 votes with 51.7% of voters (34,757) casting a no vote and 48.3% (32,470) yes votes, according to the unofficial results on the Minnesota Secretary of State website.

If the operating levy had approved, it would have generated about $9 million per year for five years for the Osseo School District.

“We recognize that it's difficult for anyone to consider new taxes in the current economic climate, and we sincerely appreciate the careful consideration voters gave these requests,” Osseo School District 279 School/Community Relations Director Barbara Olson wrote in an email to Patch. “Without additional operating income to sustain current staffing, programs and services, we’ll need to reduce expenditures by about $14 million over the next two years. Staff and School Board will start to work right away on a plan to identify reductions.”

If the technology levy had approved, it would have generated $5 million per year for ten years for technology purposes in the district.

“Without a dedicated funding stream for technology, the district's regular capital budget (which also provides for facility improvements, equipment and curriculum materials) will not be able to support the advances in classroom technology that help accelerate student achievement and prepare students for college and careers,” Olson wrote. “Our schools will need to think differently about strategic investments in technology.”

The Osseo School District is  the fifth-largest school district in the state, serving all or parts of Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, Corcoran, Dayton, Maple Grove, Osseo, Plymouth, and Rogers.

Editor's note: What do you think about the failure to pass the two levies? Share your thoughts in comments.

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For additional election related articles:

Maple Grove Election Results 2012

Hennepin County Election Results 2012

Lee November 08, 2012 at 08:42 PM
Home schooling is hard to quantify, but to be fair, it's not a fair comparison. If we spend $11,650 or so per pupil each year on schooling, then a home schooler would seem to have an advantage. But, for that to be true, you have to take into account the lost wages the parent who is doing the home schooling would have earned. On that basis, home schooling is MUCH more expensive - the parent who stays home to do the schooling loses a potential salary and benefits and has to pick up the entire schooling cost. They get no credit back from the state for the money they paid into the system for public schools. So it's very hard to compare home schooling to public schooling - yes, there is evidence that home schoolers score better than those in public schools, but it's also a much more expensive way to educate if you factor in lost wages and benefits (unless you are teaching ten kids at the same time, perhaps...)
Lee November 08, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Not sure what you are suggesting here, but public corporations are subject to scrutiny and have to follow rigid accounting standards. Do the schools? (That's a question - I honestly don't know if they are required to follow the same accounting standards as a public company.) If not, shouldn't they? They are, after all, spending our money.
BP Resident November 08, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Thanks for clarifying my very simple comment at the beginning of this... I totally understood that they are not in the same budget, but from a PR side of things, not smart of the district to be purchasing these type of "non-essential" items in the weeks before an election.
Dtrain November 08, 2012 at 10:38 PM
It's great to see people passionate about this but it is a little too late. Had they indicated the positives of what this funding was for versus the negatives of larger class sizes and laying off teachers, I believe it would have been approved. Haven't we done this before and our classes are busting at the seams- prior funding apparently didn't answer the problem. Having one child in private and another in public, I see the points from both sides. With the private school- we have fundraisers, capital campaigns, galas, etc. to raise money for the school- then we as parents determine if and how much we give versus not having it rammed down our throat as another tax. Why can't Dist.279 do the same thing- then the 30,000+ that voted for the levies can donate whatever they want and you never know, the ones that voted against may just show up and pay more than the $13 it would have cost them.
Jim Burgett November 09, 2012 at 01:51 AM
Hello Everyone. I’m School Board member Jim Burgett. I want to know why voters did not approve the two levy requests, so I’m compiling a list. So far, here is a paraphrased list of what people have mentioned already above: 1. Save money rather than put up “New and Fancy” signs in front of buildings (BP Resident) 2. We have a spending problem - Learn to manage money like the rest of us (TB) 3. No coherent argument about why we need the money (Lee) 4. No serious discussion of efforts to save money (Lee) 5. We’re building Sports Domes while teachers are buying supplies out of their own pockets (Lee) 6. Classrooms each have a projector! (Lee) 7. Every year schools ask for more money (Lee) 8. Never do I hear about how schools are doing things better, differently, or more economical (Lee) 9. It’s like throwing money at a fire – nothing to show for it in the end (Lee) 10. The proposal was emotion based, lacking in real figures. Tell us exactly how and why you will spend the money, and break it down by school. (Dr. Paul Ferguson) 11. Both charter ($5,500/year) and private schools ($8,000/year) performed significantly better than the public schools ($11,000/year). Why would we throw more money at government funded schools in those circumstances? (Lee) 12. Schools have adequate funding already, they aren’t spending it wisely (Lee) 13. The District did not define what adequate funding is, and/or why it is not adequate (Lee)
Jim Burgett November 09, 2012 at 01:52 AM
14. Sure, costs do increase, but inflation has been effectively at zero for three years (Lee) 15. Tell me why it costs almost as much for a k-12 education per year as it does for college? (Lee) 16. The district did a very very poor job at presenting their proposals (Dr. Paul Ferguson) 17. The problem is all the little tax hikes add up (Pine Cone) 18. What is the district doing to address the low ratings last spring from the dept. of Ed? (BE) 19. How much of the district staff is “teachers” and how much is “support staff” (Lee) I see several common themes here, but I’d like to know if there are any more that have not been listed. Thank you in advance, Jim Burgett
Laura November 09, 2012 at 03:10 AM
Good Point!
Laura November 09, 2012 at 03:21 AM
If the district is asking us for our money, we have every right to ask for a financial plan and breakdown as to where every penny will be spent. Every business I know that asks for financial backers has a breakdown with specific numbers. The district is asking us for financial backing, and I, for one, will not vote yes until I have an exact breakdown as to how the money will be spent. I did not receive one thing at my house informing me of this levy. Not one. Additionally, I worked for the district for many years - I know how they spend their money, and it is not on the teachers or the classroom. The district office is very top-heavy, and they all have hefty incomes. The district is very generous to a specific group of employees, and the teachers, classrooms, and students don't get the money the district said they would. So... if the district wants to ask me for my money, fine. But show me a financial plan that will be adhered to.
BE November 09, 2012 at 04:36 AM
Laura - my perception of the district has been one that is top heavy. It's interesting to hear this from someone who worked there, too. Again, I strongly hope the district looks at administrative when making their cuts. Their literature suggests they will go for the classroom if levies didn't pass, yet I just don't think this is fiscally responsible or demonstrates a commitment to our children. Mr. Burgett- thank you for taking the time to summarize the comments.
B November 09, 2012 at 01:26 PM
Just search the web on the stats on the Osseo district as far as per pupil spending .....found an interesting site designed for comparing communities that had been recently updated that compares the districts. Osseo already spends several hundred dollars more per pupil than Wayzata for education. Yet, they 'needed' more. Really would have liked to seen a detail explaination as to why rather than the usual threat of teachers cuts if they don't.
Lee November 09, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Mr. Burgett; Thanks for dropping in. It's refreshing to see that someone from the district is listening in, and while this topic has gotten heated at times, a respectful discussion of the issues is always a good thing, and I think that is something we accomplished here. It also seems to have stirred people to think about alternatives (Dtrain, for example, suggests private/public partnership funding, which is an interesting idea) to doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. We can, and must, do better, and with new and creative approaches I think we can. In the end, my objections came down to a simple statement - when times are tough, citizens find ways to make do with less. We economize, we do without things, we ask for help from friends and family, and we pay more attention to how we spend our money. We expect the same thing from our elected officials, and if we feel like we are getting it, we are willing to entertain additional funding if it's justifiable.
Jim Burgett November 10, 2012 at 04:51 AM
Lee, It is very helpful to hear the honest opinions of the community. I know that others on the Board are reading these comments too. We are trying to do the best we can in a difficult environment. We debated a long time before we unanimously (Dean too!) decided to ask our voters for additional funds. At the same time, we have been cutting costs and developing a long term budget plan. These comments will help us determine what level of detail is required for our voters to feel confident in their decisions. Do you have any other recommendations? Thanks, Jim
EH November 11, 2012 at 08:18 PM
I have heard rumors about cutting the gifted education program due to the future budget cuts. I am hoping it's just a rumor!
Lee B. Salz November 12, 2012 at 12:16 AM
Mr. Burgett, Thank you for getting involved in this conversation. To be frank, I feel that both our school board and city council failed to educate and inform the community about these important levies. I’m not looking for you to share what was done. I’m strictly looking at the result. Whatever the aforementioned two entities did to share this information with voters, it was not enough to get the necessary support. I’ve read through the comment thread in this discussion and it is clear that there is a teachable moment for your organization. I’m hoping that there are strategy discussions taking place to determine how to better work with our community to pass important legislation. Full disclosure… I voted for both levies as I have children in the school system and had my fingers crossed that the money would be wisely invested in their education had the levies been passed. Most people don’t operate that way as shown in the voting results. Ironically, as I write this, my son is writing a D.A.R.E. report on consequences. Food for thought.
Lee B. Salz November 12, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Mr. Burgett, Thank you for getting involved in this conversation. To be frank, I feel that both our school board and city council failed to educate and inform the community about these important levies. I’m not looking for you to share what was done. I’m strictly looking at the result. Whatever the aforementioned two entities did to share this information with voters, it was not enough to get the necessary support. I’ve read through the comment thread in this discussion and it is clear that there is a teachable moment for your organization. I’m hoping that there are strategy discussions taking place to determine how to better work with our community to pass important legislation. Full disclosure… I voted for both levies as I have children in the school system and had my fingers crossed that the money would be wisely invested in their education had the levies been passed. Most people don’t operate that way as shown in the voting results. Ironically, as I write this, my son is writing a D.A.R.E. report on consequences. Food for thought.
JC November 12, 2012 at 03:30 AM
I have read through these posts and agree with Dr. Ferguson, Lee and L.R.G. I have taught in a neighboring district for 10 years. I have been on many different committees for the school and district. I have seen how the money is being spent. Yes, different funds are allocated for different things. But when I see even one fund being mismanaged to the point that it should be shared with the local news- trust is gone. I don't feel that my district is any different then any of the others and that's why I voted "no" for your levy. I love students and teachers and teaching will always be my passion. I have full trust that these students can learn and be equally successful, without these additional funds that are wanted- NOT NEEDED. I feel for teachers that lose their positions or have a higher class size. This is a district problem. They need to learn how to manage money appropriately and not spend the money on things that won't help students or keep teachers employed.
Tamera Bach Mohanty November 13, 2012 at 12:11 AM
I must agree with those who realize that students will not be able to learn in the same classroom dimensions with more students in them! And, worse than that-teachers who work extra hours just to keep up with the demands of activities, students and parents... having to find work elsewhere! Why can't we see that a tax increase would benefit the community! Sometimes, we have to pay for that! The Standard based grading is something that we have to live with now. I voted "yes", and I was troubled that many people put an unimformed decision to improve schools before teachers and students Tamera Bach Mohanty
Lee November 13, 2012 at 12:33 AM
Tamera - I think you miss the point. You assume those things must happen if taxes aren't raised; most of us opposed think that class sizes don't need to increase and teachers don't need to work extra hours. Rather than increase taxes, we'd like to see the money better used so those things don't have to happen. You can't assume that if we don't raise taxes, teachers will get laid off and class sizes will increase. That assumes there are no other options, and I for one believe that better use of existing money (like not building fancy sports domes or buying new signs, for example) would be a better option.
Tamera Bach Mohanty November 13, 2012 at 01:03 AM
Lee, I really think that you have made some valid points. I meant to say that people on the school board should fight for the levy and give the public some idea where the money would be best used. I do believe however, that many teachers will be the first to go, because the levy didn't pass. We really don't need a projector in every room, and money needs to be spent wisely. We can't convey what are the real issues-education, and funding for school computers for students, as well as college prep classes. Other schools have residents that take on the challenges with open arms, and they have to pay for it. (I really know some people that are middle class, like you and my family), but students come first, and we need to keep up to par on education-the future of our children matters! Tamera Bach Mohanty
Lee November 13, 2012 at 01:40 AM
Tamera - I could not agree more. My biggest issue with the levees was (and has been) that they are presented as "vote for them or you'll hurt the children." We are all adults here, and we can make good decisions - provided that we are given good information. When I see projectors in each room (I know, I'm harping on the projectors, but really - what happened to whiteboards or the good old A/V room, where they'd wheel one down the hall when you needed it?) or stuff like that new field at MGHS, it tells me that bad decisions have been made somewhere down the line. That makes me trust the "but it's for the kids" line even less. On a side note, it's not just the district - what city goes on a spending spree in a down economy? What was Maple Grove thinking building a second hockey rink, a library, the Town Green, a new maintenance facility...the list goes on. Those kinds of decisions make it harder to trust someone telling us they need to raise taxes. Bottom line - in a bad economy, I start with "prove to me that you need it" and they didn't. I'd like to see the board take this back and see if 1) there isn't a way to economize and save money somewhere, and 2) if there isn't a way to do this without raising taxes, a better presentation of why it's needed. $14m for "technology" isn't good enough. Tell me what you're buying and why it costs $14m and I'll make a respectful decision based on the hard data.
Ngmayer November 13, 2012 at 09:22 PM
This school district wastes money on administration costs. Instead of threatening to lay off teachers maybe they should cut back on the administration. I've lived in this school district since 1991 and the schools are taxing me out of my home. I will not be able to afford the taxes on my home and I don't have children in school anymore.
Dr Paul Ferguson November 14, 2012 at 03:04 AM
BE, The plymouth-wayzata border has been a problem for at least 30 years. Some of the changes to the border happened when I was in Minnetonka HS. I would like to say that I sympathize for parents in school district 279. The vote was unbelievably close.... all the parents of 279 want is the best oppurtunity for their children.
Dr Paul Ferguson November 14, 2012 at 03:32 AM
I live 200 yards from Osseo elementary. I quietly watched while improvements were made on the school: new playground, new roof, new driveway, new windows. The levy failed then too. 279 indicated they didnt have enough operating expenses to keep the doors open at Osseo elementary. The school still lays dormant. This is a classic cart before the horse spending mentality. 279 Admin needs to be better stewards of our money, and be more candid about their budget plans. Money spent on upgrading facilites should come only after 279 can meet more important needs of paying for the basics: teacher salaries, transportation, lease, and keeping the fire burning in the boiler. What impact to teacher/student ratios and overall school population occured when all the students from Osseo elementary needed to be bused to other 279 elementary schools?
Dr Paul Ferguson November 14, 2012 at 04:13 AM
Jim, thanks for making the effort of listening to the community. I think the failed levy can become a positive. There are 3 primary groups that will pass the next levy. 1. 279 admin 2. Supportive parents 3. Informed home owners. (Some of folks may fit in more than one). The path that needs to occur is what I call the golden thread of agreement. When all three of these groups can come together and agree to a comprehesive plan then I see a good levy passing. A general outline may include: 1. A written pledge from admin not to use the money for pay raises (St Paul lost a lot of trust of its district by taking huge bonuses) 2. Posting on your 279 website your operating budget. 3. A comprehensive plan for a levy including shortcomings regarding operating budgets, indications on efficiencies on spending, proposals for technology, ancillary spending on programs such as sports and bands, wise upgrades in developing schools. Once you break it down it is simple: Make a plan, base it off of accurate numbers, follow the plan. We ALL can galvanize together --positive success can happen. Efforts we make now can only lead to better communication, better outcomes, community enrichment, pride in our 279 kids, and a good working relationship between homeowners and district 279.
Jim Burgett November 15, 2012 at 05:15 AM
Everyone, This is a very helpful discussion. I'm adding more items to the list: 20. Use partnerships of private/public funds like private schools (Dtrain) 21. The School Board and City Council failed to educate and inform the community about the levies. (Lee B. Salz) 22. The District Office is very top heavy, with hefty incomes. The money should go to the Teachers and into the classroom. (Laura, BE) 23. Osseo already spends several hundred more per pupil than Wayzata. . . need explanation for use of funds (B) 24. When times are tough, the community makes do with less, so should elected officials (Lee) 25. Golden thread of agreement with different groups . . . Not to use the money for admin pay raises, Post the operating budget, Show a comprehensive plan (Dr Paul Ferguson) 26. Be better stewards of our money, spend on facilities only after more important needs (Dr Paul Ferguson) One more issue is trust. What can the Board do to earn the trust of the community? Thanks, Jim Burgett - School Board Member
DS10 November 15, 2012 at 06:49 PM
I just recently moved from Minnetonka (school area) to District 279 (where I attended school for my k 12 education). All my children went to a private school for many years (for less than 10,000.00 per year) and then when we moved them to public schools they transitioned fine to the larger class sizes. Trust me that the amount of money needs NEVER stops, the abuse of the districts spending is WAY out of control. I poured over the Minnetonka budget more than once and found HUGE places where spending could be cut. When discussed the board came up with lame excuses why they needed several of these things. When the district comes with a request for money, they need to be much more specific in what, when and where they are going to spend the money. Salaries for ALL need to be considered and included in this "need" (and not just the check, but include ALL benefits in what the total earned is) then if needed cut or freeze these expenses (if the real thing is FOR THE KIDS)
Gabriel Gubash November 15, 2012 at 07:59 PM
I understand that 85% of the district budget is union salaries... in such difficult times where we all are cutting back and making due with less, the district asking for more and more and more seems excessive to me. Wouldn't it be nice if we can vote all of our taxes like this! Government would be smaller and more responsive to our needs then! More money doesn't mean better schools, it just means that more money to the teachers unions. What the district needs is real reform - accountable teachers who share in the economic hard times we all are experiencing. It doesn't have to mean fewer teachers, but perhaps ones that are willing to make due with less like the rest of us are!
Laura November 16, 2012 at 01:00 AM
It would be so nice if teachers actually had an income that the public perceives, but the truth is, they don't. And the classroom support staff (ESPs) do not earn an livable income. Many of the ESPs have second and third jobs just to get by. As I said before, this district is very top-heavy, and the majority of any levy monies will continue to pad the pockets of those at the top, not go to the teachers, the classrooms, nor the students. Unless or until the district is willing to make cuts at the district-administrative level, and to cut salaries at the administrative level, I will continue to vote against any proposed levy, and will encourage all those around me to do the same. We all are expected to work within our budgets, and I expect nothing less from District 279. I make do without an income increase, and the district can make do without an income increase.
Jim Burgett February 05, 2013 at 07:40 PM
FYI - Since the Levy failure, we have been continuing to solicit feedback from the community regarding the resulting budget cuts. The online survey has been completed, and there are three Community Forum opportunities to provide feedback on the latest proposals. To see the proposals, go the the www.district279.org website, and click on the "Budget Reductions" link on the right side of the page. The forums are also listed there as follows: >> Wed, Feb 6, 6-7:30 p.m.: Maple Grove Senior High Forum Room >> Thu, Feb 7, 6-7:30 p.m.: Park Center Senior High Media Center >> Mon, Feb 11, 6-7:30 p.m.: Osseo Senior High Forum Room I'll be at all three forums. I hope to see you there! Thanks, Jim Burgett, School Board Treasurer, District 279 Osseo Area Schools
Keith Higgins November 06, 2013 at 07:28 PM
The reason for our no votes was spoken clearly: the economic climate. With the AHCA being anything but affordable, where are the dollars??? Vikings stadium??? Food stamps, prisons, unions, etc., etc.

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