by ADAM GRUENEWALD
District 108 School Board set their priorities for the next election during a special meeting last Monday, Aug. 19, deciding not to ask for their usual referendum and a vote and instead take advantage of state funding.
In unusual fashion, the decision would lessen local property taxes, yet increase revenue for the district.
Currently the district is in the last year of a $500 per student operating levy which bring in $625,000 to the district, $44,000 which comes from the state.
New school finance laws passed by the 2013 Minnesota Legislature enables districts to combine their local levy revenue with location equity funding.
Reviewing three options for the district, Superintendent Brian Corlett explained the district could renew the district’s $500 per student levy and opt out of the location equity revenue, renew the district’s levy and opt in to the location equity revenue or approve $300 authority and not opt out.
Board members unanimously approved the third option.
“This brings in the most revenue,” said Corlett. “It’s taxed at a little bit higher than if we held the referendum election and opted out, but we also get a lot more state aid this way.”
For a $200,000 home, taxes are expected to decrease $4 in taxes from last year’s amount.
In all, the district is expected to receive $962,820 in revenue in 2014-15, an increase from $790,717 in 2013-2014.
“That includes the equity revenue,” said Corlett, which amounts to $180,900. “We get equity revenue because our referendum is low compared to most districts.”
In not asking for a vote from taxpayers to continue their current funding, Corlett said the district reduces the risk of not having it pass which would leave the district in a difficult position.
“We run on a very tight budget as it is,” he said. “We’re always within a few dollars here or there, black or red, every year.”
Even if the referendum did pass, board member Rich Schug explained the school would lose revenue.
“Our public here has been very good about supporting the school, so if we went out and did that the way we normally did it… we’re $200,000 short in revenue,” he said.
Board member Craig Pexa expressed concern about whether voters would understand the option selected, to which Corlett gave a simple explanation.
“I think we look at it as we dropped our levy 10 percent last year,” said Corlett. “It will drop a little bit this year. We’re going to get more dollars, but we’re going to get more dollars from the state versus taxpayer dollars.”
To finalize their decision, the board approved the $300 referendum on Monday, Aug. 26.
The board also approved the election date of Tuesday, Nov. 5, and the candidates running for the three open spots.
Board member Julie Karnes decided not to seek re-election, while board chairman Elroy Latzig and Rich Schug are throwing their hats into the ring. Also joining the race are Nicole Evenski and David Bleichner.
The District 108 School Board will next meet on Sept. 26 at 5 p.m., an early time because of homecoming.
Contact Adam Gruenewald at [email protected]