Booming valuation means property tax bustLangdon school’s levy cut by half
Langdon (N.D.) Area School taxpayers will be paying less than half of what they did two years ago. The school district is levying 60 mills for its general fund this year, 40 fewer than a year ago and 95 fewer than two years ago.
By: Ryan Bakken, Grand Forks Herald
Langdon (N.D.) Area School taxpayers will be paying less than half of what they did two years ago.
The school district is levying 60 mills for its general fund this year, 40 fewer than a year ago and 95 fewer than two years ago.
According to Department of Public Instruction statistics, only a handful of school districts are levying less. All are districts that don’t have a high school and benefit from being in the Oil Patch.
“The measure of local school wealth is their property valuations,” said Jerry Coleman of DPI. “Comparatively speaking, it’s good times for all schools now. But this is quite rare.”
Langdon’s mill rate was 155 two years ago, before the state provided more school aid because of its ample surplus and mandated that districts cut property taxes. That left most schools with 100 to 110 mills, including Langdon. But the mill rate dipped further this year because the district has $1.9 million in the bank.
The mill drop means the district is asking for $1.2 million in property taxes this year, compared with $1.9 million last year and $2.7 million two years ago.
“Our valuation has kept going up, so we’ve been able to generate more revenue locally,” Superintendent Rich Rogers said. “It’s given us a chance to back off on some local taxes.”
Wind farm provides boost
Providing the biggest valuation boost was the Langdon Wind Energy Center, a 133-turbine wind farm that has operated for two years. The wind farm paid $900,000 in property taxes in 2009 to the county, townships and school district, accounting for 11 percent of the property taxes collected in Cavalier County that year. The school district received half of that $900,000.
A steady annual rise of 6 percent to 8 percent in agricultural land values in recent years also has increased revenues. Federal stimulus dollars has meant projects could be done without local money. And the robust state economy has floated all boats.
School consolidation also has been a big factor. Langdon Area absorbed the Milton-Osnabrock land when its school closed in 2001, and then received more land in 2006 when the Border Central School District dissolved. Langdon received 40 percent of Border Central’s land base, with smaller amounts going to Rocklake and Munich.
“You put all those things together and it’s translated into an opportunity to lessen the tax burden,” Rogers said. “We’ve had some good fortune.”
With the school reorganizations, the district extends about 15 miles from Langdon in all four directions, producing 900 square miles of land.
Elsewhere in the state, schools in the Oil Patch have benefited from the enlarged tax base. Bottineau’s general fund levy has dropped to 74 mills, largely because of the increased property values along Lake Metigoshe.
Spending, not just saving
The School District, which has 360 students in grades K-12, is not just saving, but also spending. Its 35 teachers each received a $2,750 raise in 2009, when the district also spent $200,000 on a running track. Rogers said the school has been made several other building project upgrades.
The school board also has discussed building an addition to the high school that would hold the elementary grades. The high school and elementary currently occupy separate buildings several blocks apart.
The discussion includes perhaps paying for the addition out of the budget, not with a bond issue.
“That would be really rare,” DPI’s Coleman said. “If they can afford to pay for a new building without borrowing, they’re in a strong financial position.”
Because of that possibility and other needs, Rogers said there’s no guarantee that the mill levy can remain at 60. But, he said things are looking up in Cavalier County, which has experienced a steady population decline over the past decade.
“Langdon was way up in taxable sales the last quarter,” he said. “Our community is experiencing a mini-boom of home-building and building expansion. It’s helping to stabilize some of that declining population.”
Reach Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 125; or send e-mail to email@example.com.