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Park Rapids School Board approves 2013 levy increase

Park Rapids School Board members recognized Sherry Safratowich for 20 years tenure on the board. She has been selected as an honorary member of the All-State School Board, serving in one of six at-large positions. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Park Rapids School Board members heard the "truth in taxation" this week, the $5.3 million levy approved for 2013 up 10 percent from this year's $4.9 million.

Business manager Carol Hutchinson, noting the past six years have been relatively consistent, cited two reasons for the increase. The referendum amount in the general fund will increase $386,526 in fiscal year 2013-14 and the "unpredictable" health and safety fund will be upped by $204,241 due to a variety of "unexpected costs" incurred this year.

The general fund amount is up 28 percent, which accounts for most daily operating expenses of the district, about 80 percent of the revenues.

General fund costs include employee salaries and benefits, instructional supplies and building utility costs, insurance, extra curricular expenses, transportation and equipment.

Total increase in the overall levy is $491,178, 10.12 percent.

Debt service in 2013 amounts to 58 percent, $3,110,063 and all other combined levies total $2,236,273, 42 percent.

Each school district may levy taxes in up to 25 categories, Hutchinson explained. Levy limits are set either by state law, or voter approval for building bond issues or operating levy referendums and formulas established by the Legislature.

The Minnesota Department of Education calculates detailed levy limits for each school district; local districts have control over only one of seven steps of the calculations, she said.

Key steps in the seven- tiered process:

n The county assessor determines the estimated market value for each parcel of property.

n The Legislature sets the formula for tax capacity, which determines how much of a tax burden falls on each type of property.

n The county auditor calculates the tax capacity for each parcel of property based on the first two steps, as well as total tax capacity for the school district.

n The Legislature sets formulas that determine school district levy limits, the maximum amount districts can levy in each category.

nThe Department of Education calculates detailed levy limits based on the formula, received by districts in late August.

n The school board adopts a maximum levy in September, based on the limits. A final levy, which can be reduced but not increased except for amounts approved by voters, is approved in December.

n The county auditor divides the final levy by the district's total tax capacity to determine the tax rate needed to generate the property tax amount. The auditor then multiplies the tax rate times each individual property's tax capacity to determine the school tax for that property.

(For referendum levies, tax rates and levy amounts are based on referendum market value, rather than tax capacity. School referendums are not taxed on seasonal recreational properties and only the house, garage and one acre of agricultural homestead property.)

In reviewing the 2011-12 budget, Hutchinson reported the general fund balances saw a positive net change of $943,609, which she attributed to lower heating costs, few retirees and a steady enrollment.

She praised Community Education director Jill Dickinson, the program's tuition revenue increasing 122 percent from 2007 to the present.

Tuition revenue in 2007-08 was $120,249; it rose to $266,745 in 2011-12. "The program is running at a profit," she said, citing more classes and After School Adventures.

After years in negative territory, the projected fund balance of $28,178 at the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year "will allow more programs to grow," Hutchinson said of Community Education.

She reported food service qualifies for a six-cent per meal reimbursement due to compliance with the nutrition requirements that were implemented this fall.

Projected general fund expenditures by program in 2012-13 include $912,166 for administration (6 percent), $393,909 for district support services (2 percent), $7,194,247 for elementary and secondary education (45 percent), $195,331 for vocational education (1 percent), $3,226,400 for special education (20 percent), $319,298 for instructional support services (2 percent), $1,364,813 for pupil support services (9 percent), $2,199,425 for sites and buildings (14 percent) and $126,985 for fiscal and fixed costs (1 percent), totaling $15,932,574.

General fund revenue by source in 2012-13 includes local revenue of $2,355,818, state revenue of $11,909,116, federal funds totaling $948,010 and resale, $19,385.

Hutchinson is projecting a negative change of $700,245 in the general fund in 2012-13, based on an "average daily membership" of 1,502 students.

In other action, the board:

n Learned Sherry Safratowich has been selected as an honorary member of the All-State School Board, serving in one of six at-large positions. Gary Gauldin nominated her for the award.

She was also surprised with a cake, celebrating her two decades of service on the board.

n Approved a policy addressing employee use of social media.

The policy addresses classroom use of online social media, personal use of public online social media by employees and establishing an official presence on public online social media sites with administrative approval.

Public online social media include websites, blogs, wikis, social networks, online forums, virtual worlds and any other interactive social media generally available to the public on the Internet (MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube, blog sites, etc.).

n Set school board meeting dates of Jan. 14 and 28, Feb. 11 and March 11 and 25. The board will go back to its first and third Monday meeting dates in April.