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Referendum Frequently Asked Questions

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Referendum Frequently Asked Questions

MPS Strong is building a strong foundation for the future

What about the 2016 referendum?

In 2016 voters overwhelmingly approved an extension of the expiring referendum, not an increase in funding. If they had not done that, class sizes now would be larger and support staff levels reduced. Budget reductions would have been even more drastic. The 2018 referendum will allow for critical investments, as well as address increasing costs as explained throughout this website.

The following is how the 2016 referendum dollars are being spent:

Breakdown of current referendum funds for 2018-19 school year   
Teachers for class size management and support staff 75%
English Learner teachers 12%
Literacy curriculum adoption (K-5) 3%
Classroom instructional technology like smart boards  6%
Textbooks and library materials 4%
 

Why didn't you just ask for more money in 2016?

In 2016, MPS had a structurally unbalanced budget that was producing on-going deficits and we did not feel we could responsibly ask voters for additional money. Since that time, the district has started cost-saving measures and made structural changes so that our 2018-2019 budget is structurally balanced with a solid financial footing and a vision of how we would like to move our district forward. We believe we are in a place to ask voters to consider an investment in Minneapolis Public Schools. 

Why are there two questions?

One question will ask voters to increase the funding mechanism known as the “operating referendum,” which voters renewed in 2016. The operating referendum, something nearly every Minnesota school district relies on, provides operating funding and is authorized on a per-student amount.
 
The other question is a “capital project levy referendum” better known as a “tech levy” and would provide funding for the district’s technology-related expenses. Capital project levies are authorized as a percentage of the property tax base, set to raise a predetermined amount of funding.

What is a tech levy?

Nearly two dozen metro school districts receive funding from technology levies (tech levies), property taxes designated for all sorts of technology-related expenses like IT staff salaries, computers, classroom tech equipment, wireless internet routers, online learning subscription fees, etc.
 
MPS does not have a tech levy in place so most of these expenditures are currently paid for with general funds. A proposed question on the November 2018 ballot would create a tech levy in Minneapolis designed to provide new funding for existing and planned technology expenses, allowing already limited general funds to otherwise be directed towards other uses.
 
No new technology-based initiatives are being proposed. The tech levy, if approved, would make additional general operating funds available for other uses by shifting existing technology expenses, including required maintenance, upgrades, and replacement cycles, to a new revenue source.

Why does MPS still have a deficit?

The reasons are complex. Broadly, education funding from the state and federal governments hasn't kept up with inflation over the past decade. Nor do the state and federal governments fully fund the true cost of providing the services our Special Education and English Language Learner students deserve. MPS is also mandated to reimburse charter schools for transportation costs for some students. Put together, these factors add millions of dollars to MPS' cost of doing business every year. For a complete set of FAQ's about the budget, click here