Crookston puts property tax increase to a November vote
Crookston voters will decide this fall whether they will support a property tax increase of about $731 per student each year. The Crookston School Board voted 5-1 on Monday to approve a resolution that will put the issue of a new 10-year operatin...
Crookston voters will decide this fall whether they will support a property tax increase of about $731 per student each year.
The Crookston School Board voted 5-1 on Monday to approve a resolution that will put the issue of a new 10-year operating levy to a vote in the Nov. 2 election. If voters approve it, residents would begin paying the higher property taxes in spring 2011.
Board member Keith Bakken voted against the resolution.
The district currently takes in an annual $600 of local tax revenue for each student from two sources: a $250 per pupil levy that will expire in 2015, and a $350 per pupil levy that's set to expire in 2012.
But if this levy is approved, the $350 levy would be revoked. A taxpayer in the district with a home valued at $100,000 would pay about $20 per month.
That brings the total levy to $1,332 per pupil for the first five years, an amount that Superintendent Wayne Gilman said is the highest possible to still be able to get a 12 percent revenue match from the state.
The total levy would drop down to about $1,085 per pupil after the existing $250 levy expires in 2015.
Gilman pointed out the district has made more than $1.8 million in cuts over the past two years, but the levy increase is needed to help keep low class sizes and make necessary investments in buildings, technology and curriculum.
Minnesota's state budget is operating with a deficit, but lawmakers by law have to balance the budget. Gilman said that has meant delayed aid payments to schools.
During the next school year, the state will keep 30 percent of school district's money until the fall of 2011.
"It creates a hardship because we have to borrow money to pay bills," he said.
Another issue is the state has kept its school funding flat.
"While our revenue might be flat, our expense can never remain flat without making some cuts," Gilman said.
That means either increasing the amount of money the district gets -- the goal of this current referendum -- or cutting costs by increasing class sizes, reducing the number of programs or cutting salaries.
"If you undercut what you pay your staff, pretty soon the quality of staff is compromised," Gilman said. "So it's a matter of what we want to provide for our children."
Minnesota's general education payments to local school districts are based on enrollments, and Gilman said his district's student numbers appear to be remaining steady right now. But that's a separate issue from the operating levy proposal that will be decided by voters, he said.
"The intent is to try to raise revenue for the school at a time when the state isn't providing any raise in revenue," Gilman said. "With no revenue adjustments, no matter how much money you have, you'll have to continue to make cuts."
In the buildup to the Nov. 2 election, he said officials will focus on sharing their concern about the need for increased revenue with the residents of the district.
"I don't know how this will turn out, but I think we have a responsibility to inform the voters of what the issues are," Gilman said. "I think we'll get a positive outcome."
Johnson reports on K-12 education. Reach him at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to email@example.com .