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Park Rapids School Board approves 3.3 percent levy increase

Park Rapids Schools held its truth-in-taxation public hearing Dec. 18. The school board approved a $165,592 or 3.3 percent increase in the payable 2018 levy.

"It is a consistent trend for the last four years," said Business Manager Dawn Duevel.

Compared to neighboring school districts, "we're right in the ballpark," she said, estimating the tax impact on a $150,000 home at an additional $15.

Agricultural landowners, Duevel noted, will see a 40 percent reduction in their share of school district taxes. Earlier this year, the state legislature passed the Ag2School Tax Credit, establishing a 40 percent credit on all existing and future school bond referendums.

The general fund levy was set at $2,225,430 compared to last year's $2,068,476. The general fund accounts for most of the district's daily operating expenses, which includes textbooks, instructional supplies, building utility costs, employee salaries and benefits.

The community service fund levy is $195,240, a slight decrease from last year's $197,745. The community services fund is for educational and recreational programs which are not part of the regular K-12 and special education programs. These include ECFE, School Readiness, recreational programs and Adult Basic Continuing Education.

The debt service levy rose from $2,751,806 to $2,762,950. Debt service is all costs for principal and interest payments for the district's voter-approved building bonds.

The total levy increased from $5,018,028 in 2017 to $5,183,620 in 2018.

Duevel reminded the school board that they approved a $300-per-pupil local operating referendum. This five-year, board-authorized referendum began with taxes payable in 2016, she said.

It is considered a Tier 1 referendum, Duevel explained.

"With that, it's equalized. So when you levy, you are getting aid associated with that levy and it's generally at 40 percent," she said. "When the board took action — that they did not need voter approval on — the state kicks in 40 percent as aid, so it's a win-win for this district and other districts to do that Tier 1."

According to Duevel, the local operating referendum will generate $207,648 in state aid for fiscal year 2018 and $321,684 in payable 2017 levy dollars.

The school board also approved a $424-per-pupil Local Optional Revenue (LOR).

School districts operate on a fiscal budget of July 1 through June 30.

Duevel projects 2017-18 general fund revenue will be $18,637,160. Most of the revenue comes from the state ($14,559,862), followed by local taxes ($2,908,660), federal aid ($827,036) and resale ($341,602). General fund expenditures are estimated at $18,794,220, resulting in a budget deficit of $157,060. Salaries and benefits account for the largest portion of general fund expenses ($14,784,471).

"We're hoping for a warm winter and fuel prices to be competitive. It's a tight budget," she said.

Duevel showed that the state aid formula for the district's general fund only increased $1,200 per pupil over 12 years — from $4,974 in 2006-07 to $6,188 in 2017-18. Another two percent will be added to that in 2018-19, she said.

Last year, the district had 1,616 students. Current enrollment is 1,675.

Food service revenue is estimated at $943,858 and expenses $891,665.

Community service revenue is projected at $774,899 with $772,923 in expenses.

The debt service fund shows a $24,011 deficit, with revenue at $2,753,306 and expenses $2,777,318.

"That has to do with interest paid," Duevel explained. "That's a variable amount and it's hard to project that. It could change a few thousand dollars."

The board approved the 2017-18 budget as presented.

In other business, the school board did the following:

• Hired Emily Boedigheimer as middle school gymnastics coach, Anthony Schiller as junior high boys basketball coach, Anita Carter as temporary high school special education paraprofessional

• Approved out-of-state travel for Lisa Coborn to attend Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) training in Menominee, Wisc.

• Approved a basketball toss for a girls basketball fundraiser and Hoops for Hearts Awareness for a Century School fundraiser.