The Park Rapids School Board on Monday certified its property tax levy for fiscal year 2021-22, and approved its revised budget for fiscal year 2020-21.

The total levy, payable in 2021, is for $5,395,660. According to business manager Kent Fritze, this includes a debt service levy of $2,652,545, which is 49.2 percent of the total.

The general fund budget for 2020-21 projects $21,159,750 in revenues and $21,421,857 in expenses. The total budgeted for all funds is $25,137,125 in revenues and $25,566,894 in expenses.

Fritze presented details of the budget and levy for a Truth in Taxation hearing, as required by state law to allow for public comments and questions. However, no one from the general public attended.

In projected revenue sources for 2020-21, the Park Rapids School District leans heavily on state funding. (Courtesy of Park Rapids Area Schools)
In projected revenue sources for 2020-21, the Park Rapids School District leans heavily on state funding. (Courtesy of Park Rapids Area Schools)

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In his presentation, Fritze noted regarding the levy:

  • The State Legislature sets levy limits for each school district. Once adopted in September, the school board usually cannot increase its levy without voter approval.

  • Compared to the payable 2020 levy, the total payable 2021 levy increased $7,535 or 0.14 percent. That includes a $42,148 general fund increase, a $310 increase for the community service fund and a $34,922 decrease for debt service.

  • Key changes in the levy include an additional $48,175 toward career and technical education, to allow the district to increase CTE programs including agriculture, business, construction and leadership; and $15,944 toward operating capital, to purchase new equipment for the schools’ increased use of technology.

  • Compared to nearby districts, Park Rapids Schools’ 0.14 percent levy increase is relatively low, with Wadena-Deer Creek’s levy decreasing 1.23 percent while school levies increased 2.48 percent in Detroit Lakes, 3.17 percent in Nevis, 5.89 percent in Sebeka and 6.2 percent in Menahga.

  • Compared to the payable 2020 levy, Fritze said school property taxes would have gone down locally if property values had stayed the same. However, he noted, many property owners’ taxes went up because the Hubbard County assessor increased the assessed value of their property.

This chart breaks down the Park Rapids schools' projected revenues per student by funding source. (Courtesy of Park Rapids Area Schools)
This chart breaks down the Park Rapids schools' projected revenues per student by funding source. (Courtesy of Park Rapids Area Schools)

As for the budget, Fritze said:

  • For general fund, including wages, transportation, textbooks, technology purchases and insurance, projected revenues from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 total $21,159,750 and expenses $21,421,857, leaving an expected fund balance of more than $11 million.

  • Food service projections are $701,650 in revenue and $859,764 in expenses, leaving an end-of-year balance of about $280,000.

  • Community service revenues of $550,258 and expenses of $573,954 are projected, with an ending balance of over $140,000.

  • Debt service revenues of $2,725,467 and expenses of $2,711,319 are projected, ending with a fund balance of about $880,000.

  • Average daily enrollment, which factors into state funding formulas, is expected to drop by the end of the current fiscal year to about 1,640, about the same as two years ago, after reaching a five-year high of 1,670 in 2019. Fritze voiced optimism that enrollment will increase again after the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • The Minnesota Department of Education’s (MDE) 2020-21 general education funding formula provides $6,568 per student, a 2 percent increase on the prior year. Fritze noted that this allowance increased 2 percent each of the five previous years but has gone down all the way to zero in some years, and may do so again depending on what the Legislature decides.

  • Sources of general fund revenue for fiscal 2020-21 include about $3 million (14.4 percent) local revenues, $16 million (76.8 percent) state funding, $1.6 million (7.4 percent) federal grants and $290,000 (1.4 percent) from resale or lease revenue.

  • Park Rapids ranks 218th of 330 Minnesota school districts in total revenue per student, with local revenue running $10,853 per student compared to the state average of $11,599.

  • The district’s 2020-21 general fund expenses break down into $9.6 million for general instruction (44.9 percent), $4.1 million for special education instruction (19.2 percent), $2.3 million for sites and buildings (10.6 percent), $2 million for pupil support (9.7 percent), $1.2 million for instructional support (5.6 percent) $1 million for administration (5.1 percent), $570,000 for district support (2.7 percent), $330,000 for vocational instruction (1.5 percent) and the remaining 0.8 percent for fiscal and other fixed costs.

  • Broken down another way, general fund expenses include $16.3 million for salaries and benefits (76.3 percent), $2.3 million for purchased services (10.7 percent), $1.7 million for supplies and materials (7.8 percent), $960,000 for capital expenditures such as bus purchases and building improvements (4.5 percent) and the same 0.8 percent for fiscal costs.