Frequently Asked Questions
Have a question about the bond that wasn't answered on our website? Feel free to check out the following responses to our most frequently asked questions. Watch for more answers to be posted here.
What is the difference between a bond and a levy referendum?
Unlike an operating levy, which can be used to pay for teachers, books or other district expenses, bonds can only be used for the construction or remodeling of facilities. A simple way to remember this is that Bonds are for buildings; Levies are for learning.
Why are you asking for a bond now?
Due to housing growth and turnover, the district projects about 1,000 new students will enroll during the next ten years - many of them will live within the boundaries of Afton-Lakeland, Andersen, and Lake Elmo elementary schools and Oak-Land Middle School. All four of these buildings are already at or near capacity, and the projected increase in enrollment would raise their capacities to about 120% at Afton-Lakeland, 115% at Andersen, 130% at Lake Elmo and 116% at Oak-Land. There is an urgent need for more learning spaces within our district to address the growth.
What projects would be included in the bond?
- Replacing Lake Elmo Elementary (built in 1920) within the city of Lake Elmo (location yet to be determined)
- Replacing Andersen Elementary (built in 1919) preferably in Bayport (location yet to be determined)
- Construction of additional classroom space and a new gymnasium at Oak-Land Middle School to make room for an additional 300 students
- Safety and security improvements throughout district facilities, including a secured front entrance addition and remodel at Stillwater Area High School
What's the tax impact of the bond request?
The $175 million request would cost taxpayers with a median priced home of $500,000 approximately $16 per month. Use the Tax Calculator to determine the estimated impact for your home.
The bond would be paid over 20 years. The annual cost to the individual taxpayer would likely vary during that time, however. As new businesses and homes are built in our community, our tax base expands and taxpayers may begin to see a decrease in their share of the taxes. This is what happened with the operating levy that was passed in 2021. In that case, the assessments on individual homes are less than the original estimate - thanks to the increasing tax base.
What happens if the bond doesn’t pass?
- Identified safety and security improvements would not be addressed.
- Our projected enrollment growth would lead to significant overcrowding at Andersen, Afton-Lakeland and Lake Elmo elementary schools and Oak-Land Middle School. Options to address the overcrowding may include higher class sizes and significant boundary adjustments - which would likely impact students in all of our elementary schools.
- We will continue to have inadequate learning spaces, operational challenges and facility maintenance needs with our two 100-year-old buildings, Andersen and Lake Elmo.
Where would a new Lake Elmo Elementary be located?
The district has entered into a purchase agreement for a parcel of land in Lake Elmo. The 47 acre site is located on the northwest corner of Lake Elmo Avenue and 10th Street North. The purchase is contingent upon passage of the bond.
Where would a new Andersen Elementary be located?
The district has a signed letter of intent to purchase a 10-acre parcel of land adjacent to Barker's Alps Park in Bayport. The district would build the new school on the parcel and partner with the city of Bayport for use of the park's fields and green space - similar to the agreement it has with the city at its current location. The purchase is contingent upon passage of the bond.
What was done to vet the proposed sites for the new elementary schools?
District leaders began meeting with city officials from both Bayport and Lake Elmo in January 2023 to discuss the need to build new schools and identify potential properties within their communities. Working together throughout the spring and summer, district and city leaders considered several possible sites for each of the new school buildings before focusing on the proposed properties. Based on all of the feedback provided by the city officials and other community stakeholders, the district entered into agreements with property owners in both Lake Elmo and Bayport - contingent on passage of the bond. Should the bond pass the district will continue working with both cities on things like permitting and site planning, which is a natural part of the construction process.
What will happen to the existing Andersen and Lake Elmo buildings?
No decisions have been made as to the future of the two buildings. If the bond passes, district leaders will gather feedback from the community and continue working with city officials from both Bayport and Lake Elmo to determine the best way to utilize the buildings into the future. Options may include repurposing the buildings for district use or selling them for redevelopment opportunities.
With the projected growth in the district, won't we need more space at the high school as well?
Projections over the next 10 years show that we'll have enough space at the high school for the influx of new students. It's very difficult to project with any certainty beyond that point, however. We'll continue to review enrollment projections in the coming years to identify any future areas of concern.
NOTE: We currently house our alternative learning center at the high school, but will be moving that program to the Oak Park building beginning next fall. That move will create additional space at the high school in coming years.
Instead of building new schools, can’t we just bus students to existing buildings?
The district made boundary changes in 2022 to better utilize space in our existing buildings. This is a temporary fix, however. Based on demographic projections, there will not be enough space in our existing buildings to house an influx of new students. Additional classroom space will be needed.
Even if the anticipated growth is less than expected, our district’s geography makes busing students to other schools a challenge. There are fewer students in the north to fill up buildings, which means kids living further away have to be bussed past schools in their neighborhood to attend schools miles away. With the current boundaries, Lake Elmo Elementary School is actually located within the Rutherford Elementary attendance boundary and kids who live across from the school have to bussed 5 miles north. Busing students is disruptive to families and increases transportation costs for the district.
Why can’t Oak Park re-open to accommodate the enrollment growth?
Since Oak Park Elementary was closed in 2017 the building has been home to students in the district’s Bridge Transitions 18 to 21-year-old program. The building has also housed the district’s Special Education department and other support staff. A portion of the building was remodeled in 2022 to meet the unique needs of our Transitions students as they develop career and life skills (learn more). Another remodeling project is currently underway in another portion of the building to create space for the St. Croix Valley Area Learning Center, which serves students in our alternative high school. The new Oak Park Learning Center is expected to be completed in 2024 and will serve students and staff in both of these programs, as well as offer space for other district and community uses.