Welcome to the 2019-2020 School Year!

On July 15, 2019, our School Board took action during their regular meeting to adopt the following recommendations from our community facility task force:

  1. Adopt the comprehensive facility plan that was developed with input from the task force as a tool to assist the district in planning for future facility improvements; and
  2. Ask our community’s tax payers to support a bond referendum of $18.6 million to help fund 11 of the 100+ solutions that have been built into the plan.

The Board's adoption of the task force's recommendations was the culmination of two years of work that led up to this point.  To bring you up to speed on things, the School Board spent much of 2017-2018 studying the school district's facility situation.  The Board determined in February of 2018, that our District was in need of mapping out a long range facility plan before it could move forward in figuring out how to pay for possible solutions for issues.  After providing consulting firms an opportunity to study our District's situation, in May of 2018, the School Board made the decision to engage Nexus Solutions to assist our District in mapping our plan.

In September, 2018, a twenty-seven-member community task force was formed to assist the school district in developing our facily plan.  After nine months of work, the task force had both a draft of a long range facility plan, and recommendations that they were ready to bring to the School Board for consideration.  Task force representatives presented those recommendations to the School Board on June 10th.  The Board took a month to process both the plan that was developed and the recommendations before formally acting to adopt them on July 15th.

The current draft of the facility plan maps out 100+ facility issues and solutions.  Some are high priority items, some are medium priority items, and some are low priority items.  The plan also includes rough cost estimates and funding strategies for each solution.

The 11 referendum solutions are considered high priority needs for the District.  During their presentation to the School Board on June 10th, the task force representatives shared the task force’s thoughts on options for referendum question format including the possibility of packaging the solutions into one question or breaking them into two separate questions.  They stressed that the facility task force feels all 11 solutions are of high importance.

They also shared that the facility task force would support which ever question option the School Board decides.

With the Board's action on July 15th, the Board expressed its intent to ask the community to support a bond referendum to help generate revenue to fund the 11 solutons identified by the task force.  The decision to officially call an election for November is pending, and the Board will be asked to consider doing so during their August 12, 2019 School Board meeting.

You can learn more about the facility task force’s work, the facility issues we developed solutions for, and the solutions built into the facility plan by clicking the various links on the facility task force’s website at:  https://www.scschools.net/page/4947.

The facility task force and the School Board are understanding of and senstive to the potential tax impact a referendum would have on our community. 

This past spring, a diverse sample of 625 community members were surveyed to help the district grasp an understanding of the level of community support for the solutions we have been exploring, along with the level of tax impact our community would be willing to support.  The cost of the 11 solutions, stays within the tax impact range that the majority of survey respondents indicated that they would be willing to support.  The full survey results are available on the task force’s website.

Another positive note on the property tax front, after the District’s 2016 referendum attempts, the legislature did pass what has become known as the “Ag2School Credit.”  Essentially a 40% credit is applied to the tax due for school building bond projects on ag land.  That credit didn’t exist for our district’s ag land owners in 2016.  It does now. 

To help people grasp an understanding of the impact the 40% credit has on an ag community, I invite you to read a letter to the editor that was submitted to the Austin Herald by a Southland Public Schools Board member last October.  You can find the article at:    https://www.austindailyherald.com/2018/10/letter-ag2school-tax-credits-impact-on-southland-school-district/

One other note on Ag2School, the District received additional positive news on the tax credit this spring.  During the 2019 legislative session, our legislators proposed and passed scheduled increases to the credit.  The credit will officially increase from 40 to 50% in 2020 and is scheduled to increase to 70% by 2023.  Over the past few years, our legislators have worked to close the equity gaps that exist when it comes to opportunities schools have to fund building projects.  Implementing Ag2School, and increasing the credit are steps in the right direction.

As the School Board considers its options, we will keep you informed on the progress.  We will also work to ensure you have the facts so that if the 11 solutions are put on a November 5th ballot you can make the decision that you feel is best for our students, the future of our schools, and our community.  Stay tuned for additional information.

If you have questions feel free to email me at japse@schs.k12.mn.us; call me at 507-932-4420; or reach out to set up a time to meet in person.

Enjoy the rest of the summer,

Jeff Apse
Superintendent of Schools