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Menahga School settles on 2.6% levy increase

The school board agreed to decrease the maximum levy by $58,012, for a final 2023 levy of $1,688,953. This is a 2.62% – or $43,104 – increase over last year.

MenahgaElementarySchool2022Wide.jpg
Menahga Elementary School
Shannon Geisen/Park Rapids Enterprise
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As in years past, the Menahga School Board approved an underlevy at their Dec. 20 truth-in-taxation meeting.

The maximum payable 2023 levy, as determined by the Minnesota Department of Education’s state formula, was $1,746,966. That would have been a 6.14% – or $101,117 – increase over the final 2022 levy of $1,645,849.

But Superintendent Jason Kjos and Business Manager Kyle Bergem determined there was $58,012 in unequalized portions of the levy, meaning it could be cut and would not affect state aid to the school district.

The board agreed to decrease the maximum levy by $58,012, for a final 2023 levy of $1,688,953. This is a 2.62% – or $43,104 – increase over last year.

Microsoft PowerPoint - MREA_TNT_2023 Menahga
Kjos compared who collects state aid with how it's spent. The state collects 62% and spends 36%; local government collects 30% and spends 37%, while school districts get 8% and spend 27%.
Chart by Menahga School District

Kjos explained there are two components of the school district tax levy. The general education formula is set by the state. The other portion is a voter-approved building bond or operating referendum.

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In 2017, Menahga voters approved a $14 million building bond to construct the new high school and gymnasium.

He noted that Menahga is one of the few districts in the state that doesn’t have an operating referendum. “And we’re proud of that in Menahga.”

Because the general education formula hasn’t kept pace with inflation since 2003, Kjos said “there is a giant discrepancy.” The allowance currently trails inflation by $1,263 per pupil.

Microsoft PowerPoint - MREA_TNT_2023 Menahga
Menahga Superintendent Jay Kjos shared this slide during the Dec. 20 truth-in-taxation hearing. The red dashed line is the current allowance. The blue solid line is where it would be if adjusted for inflation.
Chart by Ehlers Public Finance Advisors

Kjos shared a document with the estimated tax impact of the 2023 levy. The school tax went down for all property classifications (see below).

MenahgaISD821EstimatedTaxImpactPay2023 by Shannon Geisen on Scribd

Kjos said Enbridge’s new pipeline, which added new construction tax capacity to Wadena County, brought everyone’s taxes down.

He pointed out that the Ag2School Tax Credit also provides reductions for farmers and timber owners.

Microsoft PowerPoint - MREA_TNT_2023 Menahga
School districts share of property levies "has decreased significantly since the late 1990s," said Kjos. The solid blue line represents school districts, the dotted line non-school local government. During the same time period, Kjos said non-school entities' taxes have risen four times higher, while school taxes have only doubled.
Chart by Menahga School District

In other business, the school board did as follows:

  • Approved the purchase of a van, not to exceed $30,000.
  • Approved Timbr Berttunen as a paraprofessional, beginning Nov. 29.
  • Accepted letters of resignation from paraprofessional Jessica Pietila, effective Jan. 13, and from head baseball coach Nick Jasmer, effective Dec. 9.
  • Approved two FMLA requests for up to 8 weeks on or about April 18, 2023.
  • Set the 2023 polling places as Menahga City Hall and Wolf Lake City Hall.
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Menahga's city engineer put a project out to bid this week without city council authorization, according to public works supervisor Ron Yliniemi.

Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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