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home : schools : schools
February 3, 2023

10/6/2022 9:33:00 AM
Referendum open forums held, vote in November
by JEFF NORTON


The Chisago Lakes School Board, administrators and superintendent Dean Jennissen hosted two forums on the upcoming referendum on Thursday, September 15 and Tuesday, September 20.

During the forums, Jennissen outlined the detailed plan for the potential referendum money, the tax impact, and why the district is asking for the amount they are.

Residents in attendance, which totaled 55 between the two meetings,  were then able to ask questions or clarify any issues they have with the potential levy and bond.

The first question that will be on the ballot will be revoking the current $225 per student levy and replacing it with a $1,150 per pupil levy, or an increase of $925 per pupil. A successful vote would mean an increase of  $3.1 million per year in funding for the Chisago Lakes School District.
Currently, Chisago Lakes is $629 per pupil less than the state average of $854 for funding.

That levy would go towards students and staff, with the presentation highlighting multiple needs throughout the district, including:

Preserve class sizes with additional K-12 educational staff
○ Core curriculum at the Middle School
○ Elementary teachers that were funded with one-time COVID-relief funds
○ Career & Technical Education staff members

Retain and attract high quality teachers and staff
○ Provide resources that encourage our current employees continue choosing Chisago Lakes
○ Offer salaries and benefits that allow the district to compete in a tight labor market
○ Ongoing mentoring and professional development for employees

Support the mental and emotional health of students and staff
○ Mental Health Specialists
○ School Counselor
○ Check & Connect
○ Truancy Support
○Paraprofessionals in classrooms for Academic & Behavior Support

Restore hands on learning by onboarding staff in the following areas
○ Elementary Science Specialist
○ Work Based Learning Coordinator
○ Career & Technical Education

Prioritize updated educational technology to support face-to-face instruction
○ Student & staff devices
○ Updated classroom technology
○ Create a hybrid Bring Your Own Device program

The tax impact of passing the first question would be an increase of about $28 per month for a $325,000 household. There is a calculator on the Chisago Lakes referendum website that allows residents to plug in their home value and see their specific tax impact. The calculator is located at ChisagoLakes Strong.org/cost.

The second question is a bond, which is used for building maintenance and improvements.

The question would raise $19.9 million for investments mainly in security, safety and long term maintenance of the schools, primarily the middle school. The specific building breakdown is listed in the graphics with the story.

The tax impact on that question would be roughly $5 per month on a home valued at $325,000.

Jennissen did address concerns that the board just passed a bond five years ago, saying, “Now certainly over the last five years weve done over $70 million of construction over all of our sites. People are wondering what more could you possibly do? The answer to that is we have lots to do, including safety improvements, particularily at the middle school.”

The two questions will be independent of each other, meaning question two can pass even if question one fails and vice versa.

There were some concerns from residents about the cost and why the district was asking for so much at one time and why it wasn’t done in steps or phases.

Board member Brenda Carlson answered, “We debated for three days on the number and we did not take this lightly. We wanted to lay out to our community what we needed. We get that it’s a lot. We talked about going for half or steps. But if we did not do something higher than just steps, we’d still be cutting and how do you explain that to your community? If we would’ve just said we need this but end up cutting, you’d lose faith in us. We needed to tell you exactly where we were at.”

The forum concluded with a tour of the middle school and the new principal there, Todd Warzecha spoke, on the security needs at the building.



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