Even ardent supporters were amazed at the winning margin Tuesday for Minneapolis Public Schools’ “Strong Schools Strong City” operating levy referendum, which garnered 70 percent approval in a heavy voter turnout.
“It surprised me,” says School Board Member Pam Costain. “I was guardedly optimistic that we could win, but watching the economy in free fall, I didn’t expect a margin like this.”
The new school tax will raise $60 million a year for eight years beginning with the 2009-2010 school year. The increase works out to about $17 more a month in property taxes for the average Minneapolis homeowner.
Costain says the money is necessary for the district to execute its strategic plan, which has at its heart a promise to make every Minneapolis student ready for college.
“On the one hand, it’s about really turning achievement around,” says Costain. “And two, it’s about holding ourselves very transparent and accountable. The public has a right to expect us to do it. No excuses.”
The district touted accountability in its campaign leading up to the election. Costain says that’s not just rhetoric. She says the district will report to an independent referendum oversight committee, which will monitor how the levy funds are used and report regularly to the public.
“I, personally, as a board member, am also expecting results in the coming year,” says Costain.