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Paynesville Press - Oct. 1, 2003

District proposes lower tax levy for 2004

By Michael Jacobson

Property owners should pay less in property taxes for the Paynesville Area School District in 2004.

The Paynesville Area School Board approved a proposed property tax levy for 2004 last week that is down 11 percent from its 2003 levy. The school district's proposed property tax levy for 2004 is $1,248,961, down from $1,405,853 in 2003, a reduction of $156,892.

The main reasons for the decline are a lower health and safety levy, changes in state aid for the district's excess levy, and the unallotment to Community Education and Early Childhood Family Education.

The general fund levy for 2004 should be reduced by just over $100,000, due to fewer health and safety projects by the district. These are projects, approved by the state, that influence health and safety.

In 2003, the district levied $174,500 for health and safety projects, including duct cleaning and a ventilation project in the high school basement. In 2004, the district has proposed levying only $38,400 for health and safety, a reduction of $136,100.

But, the district will also have to levy $39,800 for capital expenditures in 2004 in order to get the full state aid. In previous years, the district just got state aid and did not have to levy. This increase, along with the health and safety reduction, should mean a net decrease in the general fund levy of just under $100,000 for 2004. (See Line A in the chart .)

At the school board meeting last week, superintendent Howard Caldwell and board chairman Pat Flanders noted that this increase in the local taxes was caused by the state government. To them, it contradicted the pledge to balance the state budget without raising taxes.

"They've got cute ways of raising your taxes," said Flanders, who noted that during his 15 years on the school board, people sometimes thank him or blame him for the local school property tax levy going up or down. Really, he said, the state tweaks a few formulas, and the local school property tax levy goes up or down accordingly.

Levy chart For the district's excess levy, of the $520,000 in 2003, state aid covered $242,500 while local taxes paid $277,500. In 2004, of the $507,700 excess levy (which is smaller due to fewer students in the local school district), $301,050 should be paid by state aid, and only $206,650 by local property taxes, a reduction to local taxpayers of nearly $71,000. (See Line B in the chart.)

The district will also need to levy $29,000 to get the full $72,000 in equity aid from the state. This used to be all state aid. (See Line C in the chart.)

The levy for Community Education in 2004 is down, too, due to the unallotments by the state. The state unalloted $30,000 for the local Community Education program and $10,000 for Early Childhood Family Education. It did this by forcing these local programs to use fund balances this year with a corresponding reduction in their property tax levy. (See Line D in the chart.)

Finally, the levy for debt service is up slightly due to higher payments on the district's bonds. (See Line E in the chart.)

Normally, the school board holds a Truth-in-Taxation hearing in December, but the board opted not to hold one this year, citing poor turnouts in the past. The board is no longer required to hold such a hearing.

Instead, the board opted to handle any questions about taxes on an individual basis. Anyone with questions should start by contacting the district office. If requested by the public, the board indicated it would consider holding a hearing.

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