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Nevis School to hold referendum for operating levy

The Nevis School District will be asking voters to approve a referendum of $475 per resident pupil unit over a 10-year period, replacing the $126 per pupil operating levy, which expires in 2012.

The levy, if approved in November, will generate approximately $146,500 each year (based on 308.47 resident pupil units), compared with the existing levy, which adds $39,000.

The decision, school board chair Ed Becker said, is based on anticipated reductions in state aid to schools.

"The reality is, the state is broke," he said. "And it won't be repaired next year. The operating levy expires next year. Over the years, we've been tightening our belt. It's trimmed now to where we don't know where to look."

Ninety percent of Minnesota school districts now receive referendum revenue, with a state average of $826 per pupil unit in 2010. That amount is expected to increase to $847 per pupil unit in 2011.

If approved, the owner of residential, homestead, apartment or commercial- industrial property with a taxable market value of $100,000 would pay $54 per year, for example. A $200,000 property owner would pay $107 and the owner of a $300,000 piece would pay $161.

Seasonal recreational residential property - cabin owners - will pay no taxes for the referendum, if approved. Agricultural property would pay taxes for the proposed referendum based only on the value of the house, garage and one acre.

The school board agreed to hire Ehlers & Associates to compile data on the tax impact to property owners, which includes estimating revenue and state aid, the impact on property taxes for sample parcels and providing tables summarizing the information.

Discussion points at committee meetings centered around the flat state funding, the need to maintain low class sizes, maintaining academic and extracurricular offerings, improving instructional technology and continued maintenance of the building and transportation system, superintendent Steve Rassier said.

Park Rapids is expected to ask voters to approve a five-year general education levy of $600 per resident pupil unit in November.

Walker-Hackensack-Akeley is also expected to ask voters for a levy, Becker said at Monday's meeting.

The motion to revoke the existing levy and replace it with the $475 amount met unanimous approval from the board.