Unite Edina Leaders Downplay Financial Impact of Detachment Request

Edina property owners who want to leave the Hopkins school district say detachment would only have a modest impact on the district.

Edina property owners who want to leave the Hopkins school district say Hopkins is better off than the district they want to join and that their departure would have minimal impact on Hopkins’ finances.

Unite Edina 273 representatives made the arguments during a Wednesday morning meeting with Hopkins’ Citizens Financial Advisory Committee (CFAC) in which committee members also questioned the group’s motivations and how it’s funded.

Unite Edina is made up of Parkwood Knolls and Walnut Drive property owners who say they want to leave the Hopkins school district because its schools are not in locations that serve the families’ educational needs. They say their request is about neighborhood schools and sense of community—not money.

“When people come into Edina, they want to be part of the Edina community,” said homeowner Pam Allen.

Still, Hopkins officials invited Unite Edina to make its case at Wednesday’s CFAC meeting in order to understand the financial ramifications before making any decision.

Alan Koehler, who’s spearheading the detachment effort, argued that Hopkins is a better-endowed district than the Edina school district. He noted that the total market value in Hopkins’ boundaries is 15.7 percent larger than in Edina while Hopkins serves 13.9 percent fewer students than Edina.

Koehler pointed to several recent and upcoming projects that will eventually add more than $350,000,000 to the district’s tax base.

Unite Edina estimates that detachment would cost Hopkins $281,000 annually in taxes paid into the operating levy—about .3 percent of the district’s $84 million general fund. The district would also lose $280,000 in taxes for the capital projects levy.

Koehler’s numbers don’t tell the whole story, though. While the Hopkins school district has several major projects on the horizon, it also has more poor students and more students in categories that traditionally struggle.

English language learners make up 7.2 percent of Hopkins students compared to 3.4 percent in Edina, according to the Minnesota Department of Education. About 35.4 percent of Hopkins’ students receive free or reduced lunch, a common measure of poverty. In Edina, that number is 8.9 percent.

Class differences?

At times, questions and comments from the Hopkins side seemed as if the attendees suspected there were socio-economic motivations behind the detachment request. CFAC member Kip Heegaard asked if Unite Edina had approached families in apartment complexes near the area that wants to detach. Dave Koppe asked why they weren’t trying to bring all of Edina into Edina schools.

“I’ve got many phone calls from many people in many neighborhoods (saying) ‘What does Unite Edina mean? Does that mean all of Edina?’” said School Board Treasurer Wendy Donovan: “So when we say ‘Unite Edina,’ it’s really not uniting Edina. It’s uniting your part of Edina.”

The Unite Edina properties are better off than a typical property in the Hopkins school district. The 463 parcels in the proposed detachment area represent 1.9 percent of the total parcels in the district but 4.27 percent of its market value, said John Toop, the district’s business services director.

Koehler countered that the group just followed natural neighborhood boundaries. As it was, the process has been a time consuming one that volunteer organizers had to go about while holding full-time jobs.

“It’s taken two years and literally our full bandwidth just to cover the areas in yellow,” he said, referring to a map with the proposed detachment area. “We don’t claim to speak for any other neighborhood than the one we live in.”

Follow the money

But CFAC members questioned Koehler’s use of the term “volunteer” and asked who’s paying for the organization’s attorney and lobbyist.

Koehler said 208 families contributed funding.

That wasn’t the only time Hopkins probed Unite Edina about their financial motivations. Attendees noted that 29 parcels are still undeveloped and owned by a single owner. Others pointed that a change of school district could make home values climb.

Koehler acknowledged that property values could go up but said that’s simply because people like sending children to schools closest to where they live. Others agued that the school district shouldn’t worry about what effect detachment would have on property values.

“Would that be a bad thing? Would the Hopkins School Board decide not to approve this on the basis that Edina property values would go up? I think not,” Unite Edina lobbyist Jim Erickson said. “I’m not so sure the fact that Edina property values will go up in this area is a factor.”

Hopkins officials expect to have a detailed analysis of the financial impact within two weeks. The Hopkins School Board’s Policy Monitoring Committee will hear from Unite Edina at 1 p.m. Nov. 14, where the discussion should center more on policy issues than funding. The district could make a final decision as early as the Jan. 24 board Meeting.

Erickson urged school officials not to let money be the sole factor in their decision.

“I’d like you to apply a higher standard,” Erickson said. “Yes, it is possible and perhaps true that the self interest of the Hopkins school district would be to simply say no. I’d like to suggest that there’s a higher, and perhaps greater, public community good.”


See the map above for a look at the areas petitioning to be moved from Hopkins Public Schools to Edina schools. The purple areas have petitioned to detach. The blue areas are within Edina's boundaries, but have not asked to leave Hopkins schools.

Dave Lloyd October 27, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Well, campaigning that something is fixed has conseqences and unfortunately may in part have opened up this door. Even if you assume no state per pupil funding is involved here, the property tax numbers are not minimal for Hopkins. Hopkins has a lot of debt, declining enrollment and a high cost per student. Hopkins cannot afford to lose this money. This money could be used for helping kids progress to college. I read about their great program encouraging college this morning. We need a strong Hopkins School District, but I'm for freedom of choice.
David October 27, 2012 at 04:31 PM
This is just more proof that Yvonne Selcer and the DFL's argument that she 'fixed' Hopkins is, to quote Joe Biden, 'malarkey'. Tough to argue you fixed something and left it in better shape when you have $120 million more in debt and your 'customers' are leaving to shop with your competitors. Any business (and don't kid yourself, this IS a business) would be firing its leaders and retooling their business model with a result like that. And those fired leaders wouldn't be able to get a new job in the same field based on that performance.
Mavis Johnsen October 28, 2012 at 11:33 PM
Bill Glahn supports the United Edina movement and has pledged to carry the bill in the legislature if elected. Ron Erhardt had 18 years to fix this problem. He did nothing. His response at a candidate forum was I don't think it's a good idea but good luck.


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