General Referendum FAQs

  • What was be on the ballot?

    • There were two referendum questions that was on the ballot on November 7, 2023. There was a “revoke and replace” of an Operating Levy and a renewal of an expiring Capital Project Levy. 

    What is an Operating Levy?

    • This is a request of voters to increase taxes for the purpose of providing for the day-to-day costs of operating a school district. Operating levies include funding teachers, support staff, classroom materials and school operations. “Levies are for learning and bonds are for building” is a phrase that describes the difference between operating levies and bond referendums. 

    What is a Capital Project Levy Referendum?

    • This is a request of voters to increase taxes for the purpose of providing maintenance of district buildings and grounds including roofs, brick tuck pointing, case work, athletic facilities, windows and doors, plumbing, parking and drives, signage, siding, and mechanical systems. Additionally, Capital Project Levy can be used for maintaining safety and security, providing district technology including acquisition, installation, replacement, support and maintenance of software, improved technology, technology systems, network and infrastructure, and related training.

    What is the difference between an Operating Levy Referendum and a Bond Referendum?

    • “Levies are for learning and bonds are for building” is a phrase that describes the difference between operating levies and bond referendums.

    Do renters directly have to pay for an operating levy or capital project levy?

    • No, only property owners in Columbia Heights Public Schools boundaries directly pay these levies.

    Does CHPS make its budgets available to the public? 

    • Yes. District budgets from Fiscal Year 2013-2014 to the present are available on the Financial Reports page. Additionally, after the School Board's approval of a budget, the District includes that decision in the School Board Report, which is made available to the news media and public. 

    Is Columbia Heights Public Schools financially responsible?

    • Yes. Each year the School District is audited by an independent auditing firm. These audits look at virtually every aspect of the District's financial operations. A representative from the auditing firm of Bergan, Kern DeWenter Viere (BerganKDV) told the Columbia Heights School Board that district business operations are well-managed and consistent with national accounting standards at the December 13, 2022 School Board meeting. In August 2023, the Association of School Business Officials International selected the Columbia Heights Public Schools’ Finance Department for its sixteenth consecutive Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting award. The award is the highest recognition for school district financial operations and is only conferred to school districts that have met or exceeded the most stringent standards for financial reporting and accountability. 

    Does the School Board raise property taxes?

    • In certain instances, the School Board can increase taxes without going to voters, such as lease levies. This is not a privilege unique to CHPS and is consistent with state statutes.

    How is the approximate tax impact calculated?

    • Tax capacity and tax valuation figures are calculated by the Anoka County Tax and Assessment Department.

    What is on my tax statement?

    • On Anoka County tax statements, there is a line that says "School District #13" and then Line A: Voter Approved Levies and Line B: Other Local Levies. "Line A: Voter Approved Levies" combines all levies and bonds that voters living within the school district boundaries have approved covering this current tax year, including the Operating Levy, Capital Projects Levy and Bonds. "Line B: Other Local Levies" combines all levies that the state approves for a school district including Community Education levy, Early Childhood Family Education levy, Long Term Facility Maintenance Levy. Line B levies are not voter approved. 
    • Homeowners would see an increase in Line A if the Operating Levy is approved. The Capital Projects Levy is a renewal and is not asking for an increase in the tax support of homeowners. 

    How can the District guarantee voters their taxes will not exceed what has been shared?

    • The District provides approximate tax increases based on specified property values. The District cannot guarantee changes in taxes based on either increases or decreases in property values. Source: Anoka County Records, Taxation and Assessment Department.

    Can the District move operational levy referendum funds to voter approved bond projects and vice-versa?

    • No. The District, like all government entities that receive taxpayer-approved referendums, can only use the funding for the designated purposes approved by voters.

    Can the District legally spend taxpayer monies to factually inform the public of a school district?

    • Yes, the district has a responsibility to provide the public with factual information about the details of the proposed bond referendum. The District must follow the Attorney General Opinion 159A-3 (May 24, 1966). The School District must provide information about this Bond Referendum in a neutral manner.

    Was the community asked for their input?

    • The District - aligned to its Strategic Roadmap - conducts community surveys and includes community members on district committees including the CHPS Finance Committee. 

    Didn’t school districts just receive a lot of funding from the state of Minnesota with the Education Omnibus bill?

    • While CHPS is grateful for the 4% per pupil funding for the school year 2023-2024 and 2% per pupil funding for the school year 2024-2025, this does not keep up with the cost increases in education, including significant transportation costs. Voter approved levies and bonds are important additional funding sources for school districts in Minnesota to cover operational and facility costs.
    • Key funding streams do not keep pace with inflation. While overall education funding has outpaced inflation over the past two decades, two critical funding streams — the basic formula and local optional revenue — have lagged significantly behind inflation.
    • The funding increase wasn’t the only thing that was historic in the education bill. It also includes historic new expectations and requirements for school districts, some of which were funded and some of which were not.
    • Major changes were adopted to the Public Employment Labor Relations Act and the full impact of these changes is yet to be determined but could very well lead to increased costs for school districts.
    • The significant federal resources that were approved in response to the global pandemic are winding down over the next year.
    • Demographics and the pandemic have caused significant enrollment fluctuations for many school districts. With state education funding largely distributed through per pupil formulas, this has had a significant impact on school district revenue.