Cambridge-Isanti, Braham school districts to hold elections

The Cambridge-Isanti School District, as well as the Braham Area School District, will ask voters to head to the polls Nov. 5 to support school funding.

The Cambridge-Isanti School District is asking voters to decide on a $10 million bond referendum, payable for 20 years. If approved, the funding will be used to fund the most critical safety, security, repair and maintenance needs of all the school district buildings.

The Cambridge City Center Mall and Isanti City Hall will serve as polling locations for the C-I election and will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The following vote at Cambridge City Center Mall: city of Cambridge (Precincts 1 and 2), Dalbo, Maple Ridge, Stanchfield, Wyanett, Springvale and Cambridge townships of Isanti County, and Fish Lake Township of Chisago County.

The following vote at Isanti City Hall: city of Isanti, Spencer Brook, Bradford, Isanti, North Branch, Stanford, Oxford and Athens townships of Isanti County.

C-I Superintendent Ray Queener explained the district chose to reduce the cost of the election by offering two polling places instead of 18. To have all 18 polling places staffed, would have cost the district close to $30,000.

“The district has made more than 95 efforts to provide the communities with opportunities to learn about the bond referendum by the means of question and answer sessions at local community events and meetings, nearly 30 opportunities were presented at our local schools via informational meetings, open houses and parent groups, and over 20 times the bond referendum was addressed in the local media by newspaper columns, public service announcements, mailers and radio interviews,” Queener said. “We continue to extend an invitation to the communities to learn more, and answers to the most frequently asked questions on the bond referendum can be found on the district’s website.”

The project budget includes $1.16 million for secure entrances; $1.46 million for parking lots, sidewalks, site and grounds; $1.56 million for building envelope improvements (roofs, windows, doors, etc.); $2.25 million for infrastructure (heating, piping, ventilation, etc.); $1.24 million for transportation building improvements; and $2.33 million for regulatory, ADA accessibility or other improvements.

“It has been easy to talk about the bond referendum because we feel the request is reasonable,” Queener said. “We don’t feel we are asking for anything outrageous. The board really focused on asking for funding for the most critical needs of the district’s long range capital plan and took this very seriously when putting together the budget package.”

As far as the annual tax impact on the school portion of the property taxes, relating to the bond referendum only, as far as residential homestead, homes with a $100,000 taxable market value will see an annual increase of $14; $125,000 homes will see an annual increase of $19 and $200,000 homes will see an annual increase of $35. Commercial and industrial businesses with a taxable market value of $150,000 will see a $44 annual increase,  and $250,000 businesses will see a $83 annual tax increase.

If the bond referendum is approved, the tax impact will be assessed over 20 years beginning with the 2014 property taxes.

“The safety, security, repair, and maintenance improvements that the district will be able to make to our schools and grounds are urgent needs, and if the voters should support the bond referendum, the district will be able to address these needs,” Queener said. “The improvements will help the district to continue to provide our students, staff, and communities with safe, effective learning environments that best accommodate all who are valuable to our schools.”

Queener explained at the July board meeting, the School Board moved to apply a $300 per student levy on property taxes. An additional $212 in revenue was gained by “location equity” funding from the state. Therefore, a $512 per student levy will be placed on property taxes in 2014. On a $125,000 average residential home, the estimated tax increase is $98.64 per year to be assessed beginning in 2014 regarding the board-approved operating levy.

Queener said the district needed this funding because it was one of 38 schools without an operating levy prior to the new legislation and ranked last in the state out of 340 schools in revenue received to operate its schools.

Queener explained at the September board meeting, the School Board obtained the authority to issue an alternative facilities bond due to the delayed maintenance of the ventilation system at Isanti Middle School/Minnesota Center. This means a tax will be placed on local properties to repay the debt obligation. On an average residential home of $125,000, an approximate $19 per year tax impact will be assessed beginning at the 2014 taxes for 10 years.

Click here to see the total tax impact if the bond referendum passes. On a $125,000 residential home, the total tax impact would be $137 per year.

Queener explained a bond raises money solely for buildings and a levy raises money to finance learning – to hire teachers, pay utility costs, or purchase learning materials required to run the schools. He explained if the bond referendum is approved, the bond can only be used on building and facility needs identified in the ballot question.

“Your vote is an opportunity for you to use your voice and to speak on behalf of all students,” Queener said. “This is an opportunity for the communities to make an impact on the future of schools, and every single vote is important.”

To learn more about the bond referendum visit www.cambridge.k12.mn.us/~bondreferendum or call the superintendent’s office at 763-689-6188.

Braham School District 

The Braham School District is asking for a continuation of its current levy slated to expire next year. Voters will be asked to decide on funding of $275.32 per pupil unit served for the next five years. Funding will be used to continue to maintain and update facilities, as well as update programming and keep class sizes down.

The polling location for the Braham election will be the Braham Area High School Community Room and will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Braham Superintendent Greg Winter explained the levy renewal doesn’t call for an increase in the school portion of property taxes. He said the passage of the levy would actually have a net effect of a decrease on the school portion of property taxes because of more financial support from the state of Minnesota on funding local school levies, which was approved in the last legislative session.

“Generally, in regard to the levy, we are looking for a continuation of the funding stream we are already receiving with the current levy,” Winter said. “The confusing issue with many constituents in the district is why does the school portion of our taxes decrease if the levy is passed? In essence, the state has increased the amount of the aid we receive on these levies. This amount is called equalization. We have received equalization for past levies. The Legislature in the last session increased the amount of equalization to enable district such as Braham Areas Schools to fund their school system without an additional burden to the local tax payers. This in turn will cause the school portion of the property tax to decrease as the school seeks a continuation of the current levy.”

Here is the estimated impact on the school portion of property taxes on approval of the levy. The property value is listed first, with the estimated impact on taxes listed second: $50,000, -$33; $100,000, -$66; $150,000, -$98; $175,000, -$98; $200,000, -$131.

“We certainly hope that all residents of the Braham Area School District come out to vote next Tuesday,” Winter said.

Along with the levy referendum, the district also has three seats on the board that are up for election, with four candidates vying for the three seats.

Candidates include current Board Member Steve Eklund, as well as Allison Londgren, Mike Thompson and Stephanie White. (Profiles on all the candidates can be seen by clicking here.)

For more information on the levy renewal, contact the district office at 320-396-3313, ext. 5199 or email gwinter@braham.k12.mn.us.

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