Taxpayer watchdogs challenge incumbents in South Washington County School Board election

The status quo is being challenged in school district 833, but the teachers union is at work to keep school board incumbents in place.  While South Washington County School district staff must take a neutral position on the upcoming tax levy and bonding ballot questions, they are still promoting the referenda by hosting community conversations and producing videos like the one below:

District 833 renewed a $4.6 million levy back in 2013 and added $6.9 million in new spending at the same time.  On November 3rd, residents will be asked three ballot questions on new spending including a $10.3 million levy increase, approval to borrow $96 million for middle schools, and approval to borrow $46.5 million for high school and elementary school improvements.

Three school board incumbents whose seats are up, are running again for re-election to the seven-member board.  Michelle Witte, Joe Slavin, and current Board Chair Ron Kath all support the tax increase and borrowing. Slavin is actively promoting “Yes” votes via his Twitter account and is volunteering with the Vote Yes committee.

Candidate and current board member Michelle Witte told the South Washington County Bulletin that she supports the new spending, “I feel like we need to go for what we need, We just need to go for it.”

The Teachers Union of South Washington Country has endorsed the three incumbents and is organizing phone banks for the November 3rd election.

Challenger Patricia Driscoll also supports the levy increase.

Challenger Molly Lutz, who is running for the board for the second time, supported past tax levy hikes for the district, but calls for careful scrutiny of spending and has been critical of how the current board has held the administration accountable.

Challenger Dean Barton questions the district’s past space planning decisions via his blog and concludes “it is difficult to justify the approval of a $143 million dollar, twenty year debt at this time for the reasons put forth by the current school board.”

Challenger Andrea Mayer-Bruestle promises to be a taxpayer watchdog and wants to back line-item budgeting “so taxpayers can see how their money is spent” per the Washington County Bulletin.  She criticizes the current board for giving too much power to the Superintendent.

South Washington County Schools has 17,385 students enrolled and has a 13:1 student to licensed staff ration per the Minnesota Department of Education.

The increase in the local tax levy is despite a 9.5% spending increase for K-12 education that the legislature passed on June.