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Park Rapids School levy explained

The Park Rapids School District's property tax levy will increase approximately $1.4 million for taxes payable in 2007.

Business manager Olive Springborn gave the final calculation and other information at the district's Truth in Taxation hearing Monday night.

The increase includes $1,024,872 to be generated from the operating levy referendum voters approved in November. Without the levy, the increase would have been about $400,000, Springborn said.

Earlier this fall, she asked the board to approve "the maximum levy," pending final figures still to be calculated. The numbers are now in and the board will be asked to certify the final levy at its regular meeting Dec. 18.

Of the total to be levied, about $2.5 million will go to debt service. While most of that amount goes toward payment on the debt for the Century School and other projects voters approved in 1999, Springborn said, the last payment on a facility and equipment bond will be made in February.

The final payment will free up money the district has available to spend on capital projects, including curriculum, she explained. In the past, the district has had to subtract the amount of the facility and equipment bond payment from capital dollars.

In her presentation, Springborn compared property tax levies going back to 2001. That year, taxpayers paid nearly $6.4 million. For 2002, the amount dropped to less than $3.4 million and it has remained flat since.

Similarly, state funding remained constant at $4,601 per pupil unit for 2002, 2003 and 2004, then increased slightly for 2005 and 2006, although, Springborn pointed out, the state put more restrictions on how the money could be spent. "The state said we got a 4 percent increase, but it was more like 3 to 3.5 percent," she said.

Springborn also described other portions of the total levy targeted for specific purposes. For example, for 2007, the levy includes about $52,000 for "safe schools." The district used to be able to ask for $33 per pupil unit and now it's down to $26 or $27. "It's another way legislators can make tax cuts," she said.

A health and safety levy of $236,700 will go toward improvements needed based on a report she prepares to keep the district in compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations.

The levy for 2007 also includes about $180,000 for community service, including Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE). The overall community service budget is based on census projections: 0-4 for ECFE and the school district's estimated population for basic community education.

Finally, Springborn showed the trends in how operating capital has been shifted from total aid to the local levy. For property taxes payable in 2003, it was 50-50: $443,000 from the state and $443,000 from the local levy. For 2007, capital aid from the state is $914; from the local levy it is $368,621.

Karl Dyre, a retired teacher and resort owner, was the only taxpayer who came to the school board meeting specifically for the Truth in Taxation hearing.

In response to a question from Dyre, superintendent Glenn Chiodo explained increases in market value in the area have affected how much the operating levy will cost local taxpayers. For example, he said, in the Bemidji School District the state matches almost dollar for dollar what voters approved when they okayed an operating levy. In the Park Rapids School District, local taxpayers have to pay 86 percent; the state contributes the other 14 percent.

Park Rapids is similar to other districts in lake country in that regard, Chiodo said.

Further, Chiodo said, seasonal property and most ag land are exempt from helping to pick up the tab. That puts it all onto homestead, business and commercial property owners.

Dyre commented he is not complaining, but the school district's portion of the property taxes on his resort is going up an estimated $10,000 for 2007. "I just want to understand why," Dyre said.