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Q & A

Thank you for your interest in my effort to serve one last term on the Eastern Carver County School Board. Here is my forum for responses to questions from members of the community. If you have a question for me, please click on the Engage link at the top, and please return to learn more. I will update this content until the election to help those get comfortable to join Team Tim and
VOTE on November 8th! 

To finish what I started
Academic achievement for all with responsible growth
Not a big fan. Have basic presence. I'm here...
I believe in public service, but don't enjoy campaigning
It's complicated, but this will improve
No. We're in good shape. Need resources later for growth 
Test scores are within historical ranges and improving
No. Some funding is lost, but we also avoid add'l costs
It is a bit complicated, but here are the basics

Select the links above to read about the various topics and use this button to return to this list.

Q&A Topics

Why another term?

With the diversion of the pandemic, I feel that there is important work yet to do. We need to elevate academic achievement, create more inclusive classrooms and manage the financial needs of a growing and aging district. Regardless of the outcome of this election, the School Board will have at least four board members (a majority) with less than a term of experience on it after the votes are counted. I have helped guide the District through good times (innovation, graduation rates, referendums) and bad (budget cuts, racial harm, the pandemic). We have a strong leadership in place and a new strategic plan and I believe that with my extensive professional and school board experience I can meaningfully help guide the District through this next phase. On Nov 9th, win or lose, my signs will be destroyed, so this will be it.

My Priorities

Emerging from the pandemic, we need to have a renewed focus on academic achievement for all learners regardless of their background or desired career path. With a new strategic plan and a strong leadership around personalized learning, I believe the district is well positioned to realize that improvement. In order to achieve their best, learners need to feel welcome, safe and included. We have made great progress here, but the strategic plan provides a roadmap to better ensure that all ECCS learners have the opportunity and support to succeed. Lastly, we need to continue to manage scarce resources given the ongoing demands of a growing community and the competition for talent with districts richer in commercial and industrial resources. As a board member, I promise to listen to the broader community, ensure we’re measuring results, asking hard questions and supporting the necessary budget and policies.

Me & social media

I know there can be good engagement on social media, but, unfortunately I have seen how the lack of interpersonal connection in the digital world can erode behavioral norms and destroy human relationships. I have seen social media used by people to wish harm and even death to others, including myself. I welcome honest, constructive engagement into how we can serve our learners and our community, and while that exists on social media, it is too often obscured by false identities, ideas and superficial sentiment. I am evolving which is why I created this website to communicate and engage with interested members of the community. I also recently created a basic Facebook page for people to learn about my campaign, but I have no plans to do more than provide a basic landing page and link to this website. Thanks for understanding.

What's up with my campaign?

To those who have been asking about my website, I thank you for your interest and appreciate your patience. I hope this is helpful information for the community.  Those that know my history, can appreciate that I've never been a big believer in campaigning. I feel strongly that school boards are a true form of community service, and while they are elected roles, I am sensitive that these campaigns not be influenced by politics. This approach is evident in the fact that candidates do not state political affiliation. It is very disconcerting when I learn that candidates are involved in party politics. I will have a few yard signs out for the last month and I have developed this website to help those learn more about me. But note that I'm not asking for donations, I'm not paying anyone to build this site. I paid for and created this on my own. I'm hopeful that my dedication to public service will be sufficient to earn support for one last term.

How does ECCS stop losing students?

I have heard some discussion about the need to stop losing students through open enrollment to other districts. Those that follow our School Board closely will know that I have asked many questions about this over the years. The reality is that we have a very aggressive neighboring district to the north that is responsible for most of the open enrollment losses and there are also many faith based alternatives in the area that families chose for their needs. Our northern neighbor has invested heavily in marketing to neighboring districts and has approximately 3x the staff that we do. They have also invested in some expensive specialized programs to attract students. We are not the only district to suffer as a result since approximately 1/3 of their enrollment comes from outside their enrollment boundaries. 

The reality is that if all of those students were to return, we would have a notable tax increase to build at least one new school. The incremental funding we would get from the state for these new students, just helps to pay some of the new costs to provide instruction for these new students. My goal has been to stop the growth in these lost enrollments and to do that I believe that we need to better communicate the strength of our "small school" approach and to improve academic achievement. The District is working on these and I believe that we will see improvement as we emerge from the pandemic. This is a complicated topic with some bad information out there and I will add more later.

Why we're in good financial shape - for now

Some candidates have claimed that our district is going to lose tens of millions. This is simply false. I understand why a simplistic analysis would give this impression, but this is a great example of financing complexity. Basically if you look at the district's revenues and expenses across all of our budgets, it looks like we have a major loss in the current year of because our expenses of $217M greatly exceed our revenue of $184M (pp. 63-64 of our budget). This perceived loss is due to our debt service, however, what only accountants can appreciate is that this is a timing issue. Basically, we refinanced some bonds to save money on lower interest rates (even more prudent now!) in 2021, and we received revenue from the new bonds which created a spike in revenue for 2021 and these proceeds will service debt payments in 2022 and 2023. You can see the impact in the fund balance of our debt fund on p. 65 of our budget and how the fund balances are strong. 


The key to the health of our district is our operating fund which is called the General Fund. You can see our history and forecast of this fund simplified on p. 146 of our budget.  The key figure for our health is "Fund Balance as % of Expenditures". This is basically how much we have in our checking account. You'll notice how the successful referendum helped improve this but with growth and the outpacing of salary costs vs. our main source of funding from the state, you'll see how this balance will decline over time and we have some important referenda that we will need to renew. This is why we need to help the community understand our finances and why local funding is so important.  See the topic on our district finances.

To review ECCS' latest budget and see the pages referenced, use this link:

Academic proficiency explained

Some candidates are citing scary proficiency score figures that are either false or out of context. There are many measures of academic achievement, but the annual MCA tests for subject matter proficiency are important to many. This isn't to say that these instruments of academic achievement don't have their flaws and critics, but they are something we need to watch closely. You can review ECCS scores along with any other district by searching for the MN Department of Education Report Card.  For example, 20.2% of ECCS learners tested do not meet grade level reading proficiency (not 1/3 as some have claimed). What you'll notice is that ECCS proficiency scores declined during the pandemic just like most, if not all others. You'll also see that when it comes to the MCA proficiency scores ECCS has historically outperformed the statewide results typically by 8-10 percentage points. The good news is that in last year's results, the gap between ECCS scores and the state widened, meaning that our learners outpaced the state even more than last year. While the gap with the state for reading proficiency increased from 9 to 10 points, the gap in math expanded from 8 to10 points and science from 7 to 13 points!

While we want all students to be proficient, the reality is that our children are performing well above their state peers and they are improving at a faster rate. I'm confident that with kids back in the classroom and a leadership that is focused on measurement and data, the improvement in 2022 will continue to expand in the future years. 

The realities of open enrollment

A figure of $50 million in losses from resident students enrolling out of ECCS has been publicized by a group of candidates. I don't know how this figure was derived, but here's what I do know. The state of MN provides nearly 70% of ECCS funding and the per student formula in the current year is $6,863. The district has retained around 75-76% of its students historically and with the pandemic that dropped to just below 73%. This has meant that ECCS has over 3,000 students choosing to enroll in local private schools for faith based reasons, other public/charter schools for programming or home schooling for family reasons.  The district has also seen open enrollment into the district grow at a faster rate than enrollment out but much smaller resulting in a net enrollment out averaging around 2,650 out in recent years. If all of these students returned to ECCS, that would mean another $18 million in state funding to help cover the additional expenses associated with these students in our general fund, but we have lost nothing. Moreover, all of these students miraculously returning would also require the added expense of building and operating up to two new schools. A new elementary school alone would cost over $30 million build. So we have lost nothing, but recapturing these students would cost us more.

The district has consistently appealed to the same level of residents and is committed to serving them with a strong academic and extra-curricular experience. ECCS will continue to grow with area development and increasingly become a district of choice for its smaller schools, dedicated educators and quality experience.

District Finances

School finance can be complex but at the core, it’s just revenue and expenses like any operation, and the net of which impacts our ongoing fund balance. Our fund balance is basically the amount in our checking account which is something you want to be large enough to sustain the us through ups and downs, but not one that is too large and represents idle capital. Another complexity is that there are a variety of different budgets which are organized to ensure appropriate allocation of funds, but the one that represents the bulk of the education finances (>75% of revenue) is called the General Fund.

In the General Fund, 79.5% of our operating costs are people and the overwhelming portion (80%) of that goes towards the classroom experience for items related to instruction, pupil and teacher support. To pay for these expenses the bulk of our revenue comes from the state (68%) with the next highest being local taxes (26%). The final 6% of revenue comes from Federal and Other sources.

The main financial challenge is that the average annual increase of State funds has been around 2% per year over the past 10 years. As you probably know, this increase doesn’t cover inflation in a typical year, let alone the current high inflation environment. And from a competitive reality, our peer districts have been increasing their labor contracts over 3% annually, on average, in recent years.

When it comes to financing the accumulating gap between state funding and labor costs, that falls disproportionately on local households vs. many peer districts because of two main factors. First, our home values can be lower due to the impact of newer, more remote developments. Second, we may also have a lower commercial/industrial tax base due to being more bedroom-type communities. The result is a greater financial burden on households to support our local schools.

Some have asked why we don’t just cut administrative costs to pay teachers more — I also used to think this. Unfortunately, the district's administrative costs are already just 3.2% of expenses, which is among the lowest of our peer districts. Having managed the district through two rounds of budget cuts, the simple reality is that the only way to realize notable savings is to reduce spending in the classroom which means larger class sizes.

The good news is that Carver County is a desired area as is evident in the fact that it is one of the top two fastest growing counties in the state (as of 2020 census). This growth is important as every new house that is built, helps reduce the tax burden to existing households. You can see this in the fact that the average tax burden for a $350,000 house declined 12% in the five years. While some of this savings may be offset by increasing property tax values, that’s still a more favorable situation.

With so much land in the western part of the district, we will continue to grow and this will require us to manage the above financial realities. Key to this will be the ongoing effort to educate and inform the community so everyone is proud of their investment in education.

Have more questions?

Please select the following button to send me your question. I will respond directly and if a shared topic of interest, I will add to the Q&A.

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