FAQS - Frequently Asked Questions

Levies vs Bonds Updated: October 2, 2017

What is a Levy? Bond?

Levies are for learning; bonds are for buildings.

An operating levy is for funds that the district uses to run and operate its schools. Levies are for running the educational programs at the school and funds go to the district’s general fund.

Bond levies are for funds that the school district uses for new construction, updates to existing facilities, and other additions to school properties.

The successful replacement of the school district’s operating levy allows the school district for the next ten years to continue funding educational programs and continue to deliver a quality education to students. The operating levy provides funding that goes towards books, teaching and educational materials, technology, staff, transportation and more.

What happens if the levies fail?

ISD 199 adjusted for $1.5 million in its 2017-2018 budget, and an additional $1.2 million shortfall is projected for the 2018-2019 school year. The shortfalls are due to insufficient state funding that has not kept up with inflation. In the 2017-2018 budget, the district made operational changes to adjust for the shortfall and went through its annual process to adjust teaching staff to fit each school’s needs. Deficit spending is not sustainable.

If voters do not approve question one, we would:

  • Cut an additional $2.8 million from our budget in the next two years
  • Increase class sizes
  • Eliminate up to 25 teaching positions
  • Reduce academic programs for advanced learners such as Advanced Placement
  • Reduce staff and programs that help students who are behind in core academic areas
  • Reduce some student programs/services, electives, and arts and athletics activities

If voters do not approve question two, we would face:

  • Outdated or unworkable equipment for staff and students, as there is no budget for repair or replacement
  • A potential reduction in technology support staff
  • No dedicated funding source for technology, equipment, and purchases

Is the district financially stable?

Yes, but…

The district has a healthy fund balance and operates efficiently. The savings account is intended to help us through challenging financial times. However, Inver Grove has had a deficit budget for three years, and does again in 2017-2018. Deficit spending is not sustainable, and the district must increase revenue, decrease spending, or both in the near future.

Is the district financially responsible?
We believe we are.

Survey Says67% financial suppot

The district has worked hard to be a good steward of the public’s tax money. During the 2016-2017 school year, ISD 199 refinanced OPEB (Other Post-Employee Bonds) to decrease interest from 6.70% to 2.42% for the next 10 years. As a result, taxpayers will save $2.3 million over the next 10 years. This is the third refunding of bonds to our taxpayers since 2010. The three cumulative refunding efforts amount to more than $5 million in savings for taxpayers.

In April, the ISD 199 School Board approved a random-sample survey of community members to find out their perceptions of the district and reactions to potential levy questions. When asked to grade the district’s financial management, 67% of respondents gave it an A or B.  When compared to 2013 responses, the number of A’s and B’s increased from 55% and the number of D’s and F’s decreased from 17% to 12%.

Professional organizations have recognized ISD 199 for its financial management. This year marks the 12th consecutive time the district has earned a Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO). The certificate recognizes excellence in the school district’s accounting practices and reporting procedures in its comprehensive annual financial report. 

ISD 199 has an underlying Aa3 credit rating and an enhanced rating of Aa2 from Moody’s, which indicate the district’s strong credit-worthiness.

Why can't the district just “tighten its belt”?

Budget cuts decrease student opportunities. Inver Grove is proud of its efficiency. We reduce staff if enrollment drops. We spend 68% of our revenue on instruction and just 4% on administration. So budget cuts could impact students through increased class sizes and discontinued programming. This will not help us move forward and remain competitive. 

Expenditures Chart

Didn’t the state just provide an increase to schools?
Yes, but…

It’s true that the Minnesota Legislature approved a two percent increase for public education in 2017; however, this funding does not make up for years of shortfalls. This chart shows the history.


Funding versus Inflation



What are the details about the current operating levy situation?

Inver Grove Schools currently has two voter approved operating levies in place. One expires in 2019, the other expires in 2023. Between the two levies, the district has $562 in revenue per student to supplement state revenue. The Dakota County school district average operating levy revenue is $995 per student. West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan has operating levy revenue of $1,424 per student.

 $ Per Pupil Chart Comparison

Why does the district need more technology?

Computers and technology are ever-present in our personal and professional lives. Because of technology’s ever-expanding role in our businesses, school districts must prepare the future workforce to use, understand, and adapt to available technology early. ISD 199 is dedicated to preparing our students beyond graduation, and that includes giving students the tools they need to be college and career ready.

Increased technology for students also means more access to current information. Devices and digital access maximize students’ education by providing the most up-to-date information.


Why does the district need more money? We just gave them money in 2013.

The 2013 Bond Referendum supported the district’s additions and improvements to buildings and facilities. It is important to know that bond revenues cannot be used for learning initiatives, such as teachers or curriculum. This year’s levies will apply to learning. The operating levy and capital projects levy support teaching and learning initiatives such as vocational, technical, and career programs, and the purchase of tools for those programs, including textbooks and software.


Where did the 2013 Bond Referendum money go?

In 2013, voters approved a bond referendum to improve and build district facilities, such as the Salem Hills media center and Simley’s track and turf field, performing arts center, Spartan Center, and student center. Taxpayer dollars funded construction that added onto and improved district facilities to increase educational opportunities and safety for students while providing spaces for the community to use as well.

Since the bond projects were completed, community members, students, and staff have used the new facilities hundreds of times. While the new facilities have provided more learning opportunities for students and effective learning spaces for classes and staff, community members have used the new media center, student center, and Spartan Center for meetings, enjoyed band concerts, choir and theatrical performances in the Performing Arts Center, and cheered on their favorite Spartans on the track and turf field. 


I don’t have any students in the district. Why should I support these levies?

Education is the first step to an effective workforce. What students learn today could fuel the Inver Grove Heights community’s economy tomorrow. That is why ISD 199 emphasizes career and college readiness from the first day of school. Our district provides students with opportunities to explore different career paths and prepare for the work they’re passionate about as soon as possible. The levies will support the programs that provide these opportunities. The average homeowner in Inver Grove Heights will contribute $10.67 per month if both levies pass; or less than $11 to support a competent, engaged workforce with the potential to further the community.


I’m worried that I won’t be able to afford this.

You may be eligible for tax relief.

  • Owners of homesteaded property may be eligible for the Minnesota Property Tax Refund or “Circuit Breaker.”
  • The “Targeted Homeowners Property Tax Refund” can be applied to all homesteaded properties that experience a net property tax increase of 12 percent or $100 over the prior year.
  • Senior citizens may be able to defer a portion of your property taxes.
  • A new property tax credit will provide owners of agricultural property with a 40% credit for the taxes attributable to school district debt service.

Determine your eligibility by completing the M1-PR state tax form available online at www.taxes.state.mn.us.

The district’s enrollment is declining. Shouldn’t we expect you to make budget reductions?

Yes, but cuts need to be deeper, or additional revenue found, in order to maintain the same level of programming and class size. Every year Inver Grove Heights makes operational changes to adjust teaching staff to fit each school’s needs based on enrollment. As enrollment has declined, so has the number of district staff. However, as noted above, our costs are escalating at or above the inflation rate, while state revenue is historically less than the rate of inflation, leaving us short.

Why doesn’t the district sell the former South Grove Elementary School property instead of running a referendum?

The property is for sale, but so far the offers from buyers have been far below market value. Even if we do sell the property, a) it can only be used to pay for capital improvements, and b) it is one-time money and the district needs a sustainable, annual revenue increase.

Why must the district "revoke and renew" the current levies and seek additional funding?

Revoking the two existing levies means the district can combine them into one levy, minimizing the number of times voters have to go to the polls. The district is asking to increase the amount of the operating levy to continue and advance innovative programming that will help students achieve lifelong success, even when state funding falls short as it has since 2003.

Why is the district asking for funds for large instruments?

The district is proud of its award-winning bands and wants to make sure music students have the tools they need to learn. While the district regularly maintains its instruments, decades of daily use can cause irreparable wear, especially to large instruments. With the cost of large instruments ranging from $2,000-$6,000, the district is asking the community to approve the capital projects levy, which would, in part, help the school bands purchase large instruments when necessary to continue bringing quality performances to the public.

“Both the elementary and middle school programs have seen the number of low income students rise and we struggle to find enough instruments to meet their needs. It's time to look at increasing our overall instrument inventory to aid families with limited income, so the band experience can be accessible to all IGH students.”
Paul Peterson, Middle School Band Director

Here is a look at some preliminary costs:
  • Tuba Yamaha YBB-105WC Series 3-Valve 3/4 BBb = $3799
  • Euphonium Yamaha YEP-211 Series 3-Valve = $2582
  • French Horn Yamaha YHR-567 Geyer Series Intermediate Double = $3384
  • Baritone Saxophone Yamaha YBS-52 Intermediate = $5637
  • Tenor Saxophone Yamaha YTS-26 Standard = $2734
  • Bass Clarinet Yamaha YCL-221 with Low Eb = $2212