ISD 317 school board holds Truth in Taxation hearing, gets Movement update

by Barbara Cameron

The Deer River school board assembled for its final regular meeting of 2013 on Dec. 16 with all directors present except recently appointed member Pam Thompson. There was a fair bit of business to accomplish on this evening. The legally required Truth in Taxation hearing featured Business Manager Carol Risberg’s review of the district’s budget and levy before certification by the board. Heather Schjenken updated everyone on The Movement, several staff members presented their reports, and the board made some policy revisions.

Chair Brad Box called the room to order with the flag pledge, then invited Risberg to begin her PowerPoint.

The district’s proposed levy represented an increase of 23 percent over last year’s, but the final levy was only a 12 percent increase. About half the reduction was because a fire panel purchase wasn’t approved for this levy cycle, and the other half was debt service savings from the recent bond refunding. Thus, residents’ property taxes will actually be lower than how they appear on the proposed property tax statements.

She referenced the state legislature’s provision of a new tool for those school districts without operating referendums, a board-approved referendum for $300 per adm (average daily membership, which is how public school students are counted for funding purposes). This shift from a voter-approved referendum to a board-approved referendum was adopted at the August board meeting, and it will generate $119,747 in operating revenue for District 317.

Risberg explained something about debt service levy adjustments, one called the debt excess reduction. They are required by the state to levy 105 percent of the bond payments as an assurance they will be repaid. That money can be spent only on the debt service, so there are always funds left over. The state sets the debt excess calculation each year; last year the reduction was $49,000, this year it’s $21,000. It might look as though the school district is increasing the levy by $28,000, but in fact, it is a state calculation that is totally out of the board’s control.

Risberg’s slides showed multiple perspectives on the budget and levy information. The levy revenue is 9 percent of the budgeted total revenue, but only one percent of the total operating revenue. State aid is the largest portion of the revenue budget (66 percent); federal sources make up 11 percent, and local sources are 22 percent, one portion of which is your property taxes.

Expenditures in the various program categories have been fairly stable for several years, Risberg said. Instructional and pupil support make up 70 percent of the budget. Another way of slicing expenses is to see salaries and benefits (64 percent) and all contracted services (the 17 percent spent on buses, special ed, technology support, community ed, school readiness, data processing, etc.) as making up the largest category.The content you are trying to access is only available to members. Sorry.

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