Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools provides a high-quality education for students in grades E-12. Our district is known for its E-STEM curriculum, which stands for Environmental Education, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

FAQs

What is a bond referendum?

Bonds acquired through a referendum are voter-approved funds for building (both new facilities and existing schools). Bonds are generally financed over 20 years, or until they are paid. The cost of the bonds are covered by local property taxes. State education funding does not cover large construction projects, which is why school districts ask voters for bond approval through a referendum to finance local construction needs.

When was Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools’ last successful bond election?

The last successful bond referendum was in 2005, which provided funds for building Jeffers Pond Elementary, Redtail Ridge Elementary and Edgewood School.

When does the district’s current operating levy expire?

The district’s existing operating levy expires in 2018. The school board will consider asking voters to renew our operating levy in the fall of 2017.

How did the School Board develop the referendum request?

The School Board and district leadership spent the last year studying our district’s enrollment growth and facilities needs before finalizing the referendum request.

The Board used the following goals when planning:

  • Devise capacity expansion for additional 1,500 K-12 students by 2021 (growth rate of 250 per year)
  • Include core spaces expansion where needed
  • Incorporate and furnish small group breakout/21st century learning spaces into all schools
  • Ensure all elementary schools would have dedicated art, music and computer lab
  • Create equity between elementary schools regarding size, amenities and quality of learning environment
  • Plan elementary schools around 5 sections
  • Determine future locations for SAGE Academy, La ola del lago, Bridges Area Learning Center and CID

Throughout the planning process we have been working with – and listening to – our community. We brought the proposal forward to our staff and community and spent time listening and collecting hundreds of comments through: Information Sessions, a scientific phone survey, emails, comment cards and many conversations and staff presentations. Click here to view our Input Cycle.

What are the referendum amounts for the proposed building projects?

Click here to see the break down of the referendum costs per building.

How long will this proposed facilities plan be able to sustain our district’s student enrollment growth?

Between this school year and 2021, 1,500 more students are expected in our schools, spread across all grade levels. That’s an average of 250 additional students every year. The district-wide facilities study includes a proposal to add capacity in all schools through the 2023/2024 school year.

What is the district’s anticipated enrollment growth and are schools on track to realize those increases?

Our school district is experiencing tremendous enrollment growth. We are a popular school district with lots of housing growth; with that growth comes families with children. In the next five years, 1,500 more students are expected in our schools, spread across all grade levels – that’s an average of 250 students per year. From last June up to March 2nd, we have gained 374 students throughout the district. That is more than the total number of students currently enrolled in Grainwood Elementary.

Will the district have funds to open the new elementary if voters approve the referendum request?

Yes. If the referendum is approved, the district would receive approximately $2.125 million per year through a 10-year technology levy, which would provide a dedicated funding source for classroom technology, while freeing up operating dollars for a new elementary school and other building additions.

How does state mandated open enrollment benefit our district?

While open enrollment has a positive effect for school districts, in PLSAS, the majority of our growth can be attributed to resident students.

In Minnesota, school funding is driven by enrollment. Funding formulas are calculated per student. As a result, districts with declining enrollment have declining revenue.

Historically, PLSAS has lost more of our resident students to open enrollment than we have gained from other districts. The 2013/14 school year was the first time in our history in which we had more students open enrolling into our schools than leaving our district.

We welcome open enrollment students where space is available. We manage class sizes by closing open enrollment at a particular site when a building is nearing capacity.

Overall, open enrollment helps us maintain financial stability and offer innovative programs, which helps us retain our resident students.

Click here to see how PLSAS compares to other metro districts.

Does PLSAS have a dedicated technology levy to support technology now like most metro-area school districts do?

If approved, the referendum would provide a stable funding source which would enable us to provide dedicated funding for classroom technology and free up operating dollars for a new elementary school and other additions. We are currently one of the few metro area school districts that do not have a dedicated funding source for technology. Click here to see how PLSAS compares to other metro districts.

Why is it important to have dedicated funding for technology?

Our district is a leader in Minnesota for innovative technology use in the classroom. Having dedicated funding for technology for teaching and learning would mean we would be able to continue providing all students with the real-world skills they need to be successful now and into the future. Funds would be used for technology for teaching and learning. That includes classroom technology such as: student and staff devices, our Data Warehouse, Infinite Campus, Schoology and FeePay. It also includes: Infrastructure, our phone system and staffing such as technology integrationists.

Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools is one of the few metro area school districts without a voter-approved technology levy. If the referendum is approved, the district would receive approximately $2.125 million per year through a 10-year technology levy, which would provide a dedicated funding source for classroom technology while freeing up operating dollars for a new elementary school and other building additions.

Can you explain the need for a 6-court gym space at the high school?

PLHS was originally built with 4 courts for 2,000 students. We currently have just under 2,600 students and are projecting 3,150 enrolled at PLHS by 2020/21. We are proposing to add a 6-court gym space, which would bring the total number of courts to 10, or 315 students per court.

Here are the main reasons we are proposing to add court space:

  • The Gyms are used as a curricular space during the school day. One of the main reasons for adding court space is that currently we do not have enough space for phy ed classes during the school day. Teachers are unable to teach classes that utilize the entire gym (tennis, badminton) because multiple classes must use the gym space at the same time.
  • Our students also have a very strong interest in intramural programs and currently, we are not able to provide enough options to meet the demand.
  • Adding courts would free up space to bring varsity practices back to the high school. Currently we have many teams practicing in other areas of the district, such as the middle schools, and are practicing late at night due to the high demand for gym space. The ability to house more varsity practices at PLHS would also allow us to add some much needed after school middle school programming.

Gym space is only one part of the proposed plan. If the referendum passes, we will have a net gain of 27 classrooms. There will also be additions to core spaces such as: kitchen, cafeteria, office space, locker rooms, lockers and parking.

What will happen if voters DO NOT approve the referendum on May 24?

If voters do not approve the referendum:

  • Class sizes would increase
  • Growth would continue, adding pressure on schools
  • Attendance boundaries may need to change due to school crowding
  • It would limit our ability to maintain classroom technology and innovative programming
  • We would not be able to improve security at all buildings

How has the district been transparent and responsible with tax payer dollars?

Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools’ credit rating is in the top 10 percent in the state of Minnesota. Moody’s Investor Services recently upgraded our bond (credit) rating from AA3 to AA2. Similar to your own personal credit rating, the District’s AA2 status indicates PLSAS has a very strong capacity to meet its financial commitments. It also means taxpayers should expect to receive better interest rates on our bond refinancing and any new bond issues. The school board recently authorized refunding the district’s bonds that will save taxpayers $2.4 million over the next 10 years.

The upgraded bond rating is due to the district's growing enrollment, conservative budget practices, commitment to maintaining a fund balance and long-range financial planning.

We are committed to transparent and conservative management of our community’s financial resources. Our Business Office has received the Minnesota Department of Education School Finance Award for exhibiting fiscal health, sound fiscal management and accountability. We have also received the Association of School Business Officials International Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting Award.

Our educational cost per student is nearly $2,000 less than the average in the seven county metro area. We are able to offer innovative programs and personalized learning, while offering a good value.

Why is the Election being held in May?

Due to the current and projected rise in student enrollment, coupled with the fact that building construction for a new elementary school would take two years, the school board made the decision to place the referendum question before voters as early as possible. If voters approve the referendum on May 24, 2016, a new elementary school would open for the 2018/19 school year.

How have you involved the community and gathered input along the way?

Involving our community in decision making has always been an important part of any process we embark on. Before any final decisions were made, we brought a referendum proposal forward to our staff and community and spent time listening and collecting hundreds of comments through: Information Sessions, a scientific phone survey, emails, comment cards and many conversations and staff presentations. Click here to view our Input Cycle.

Who is Nexus and what do they do for the district?

Over the past four years, the District has contracted with Nexus for planning, design and construction management services as they work to address the significant growth issues in all of our schools. Nexus is accountable for the successful management of nearly all elements of this project and employs architects, engineers and construction managers for this work. By integrating the professional services into a single agreement, in lieu of issuing separate contracts, our district receives better accountability, higher efficiency, and in the long run, it saves the district and its taxpayer’s money. The estimated $14 million that Nexus would receive, should the referendum pass, covers professional fees for services through Nexus including: architects, engineers and construction management. These professional services would include the entire scope of the district-wide projects.

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