Voters in Elk River School District asked to decide on 2nd-largest metro referendum

Updated: September 19, 2019 11:44 AM

We're now less than seven weeks away from the Nov. 5th elections.

Voters in Independent School District 728, covering Elk River, Otsego, Rogers and Zimmerman, will be asked to cast their ballots on the second-largest referendum in the metro. The district is seeking $124 million.


The district is growing, and expects to grow by 2,000 students in the next 10 years. That growth is fueling the request.

"We're excited about our growth and realize it doesn't happen in communites where schools aren't flourishing," said Superintendent Dan Bittman.

The operating levy would bring in an additional $11 million directly to students, improving career and technical programs, and providing mental health services and classroom materials.

"We are the eighth-largest district in the state of Minnesota and the least funded of the 15 largest districts, and point blank we cannot continue to provide the same level of support with significantly less funding," Bittman said.

A second question asks for $113 million. The bulk of that could go to building a new middle school in Otsego.

At least 30 school districts expected to ask voters for money this fall

"The highest growth is really in the southern portion of the district, primarily in the Otsego area, and it's coming incredibly rapidly," said Cory Franson, Director of Community Engagement and Community Education for the district.

Money would also help update indoor and outdoor athletic facilities and address building maintenance at some of the older schools in the district.

The first question has to pass in order for the second to be approved, and if that happens, it would cost an additional $32 per month on a $250,000 home.

"So often people assume if you are a growing district you should be bringing in more revenue per student; the problem is, our expenses are still increasing with that inflation rate," Franson added.

If they fail, the district said it would mean cutting positions and programs.

Over the next month-and-a-half, district staff will have roughly 100 presentations on the referendum around the community.

Election Day is Nov. 5, and early voting begins on Sept. 20.

The cities that make up ISD 728 have all seen their respective populations grow significantly in recent years. Below are the percentages the populations of Elk River, Zimmerman, Rogers, and Otsego have grown from 2010 to 2018, according to the United States Census Bureau.

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Jessica Miles

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