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|Paynesville Press - December 25, 2002|
School district approves 2003 levy
School District #741 will levy just over $1,405,000 in 2003, an increase of nearly 45 percent from 2002. The Paynesville Area School Board approved the school district's 2003 levy last week.|
The district's levy was nearly $965,000 in 2002. Its 2003 levy increases more than $440,000.
The largest part of the increase is the local share of the $415 per pupil levy referendum (approved by district voters in April 2003). The school district expects to receive nearly $520,000 in the 2003-04 school year from the levy referendum (plus $52,000 in equity aid). Of the levy, district taxpayers will pay $277,500, or 53 percent, with the state paying the rest as well as providing the equity aid.
Other increases in the 2003 levy are $87,900 for health and safety (projects like cleaning the air ducts), $45,400 for debt service (due to reduced state aid), and $24,400 for safe schools.
For safe schools, the district intends to levy $39,400 in 2003, up from $15,000 in 2002. The safe school levy includes $26,000 for a card entry system (instead of keys) to the school buildings, $5,000 for student drug abuse programs, $4,000 for security supervision at school events, $1,000 to rekey the buildings, and $3,000 for other equipment upgrades.
The district levy is still down 37 percent from 2001, when the school district levied $2,228,428. This reduction is due to statewide tax reform, where the state took over all the general foundation aid for school districts throughout the state.
While this did cut taxes in Paynesville, it helped rich school districts like Edina more, school board chairman Pat Flanders told local legislators Sen. Michelle Fischbach (R-Paynesville) and Rep. Doug Stang (R-Cold Spring) at the school board meeting last week. Even before the tax reform, the state already paid a large share of Paynesville's school tax burden while rich school districts like Edina did not receive that state aid. The tax reform, therefore, helped the rich school districts more than Paynesville, Flanders concluded.
The state forced school districts to pass levy referendums - which Paynesville did in April 2003 - to get substantial funding increases, Flanders said.
Stang said there were components of the tax reform that he didn't like but overall something needed to be done.
Fischbach, whose new committee assignments include K-12 education budget, warned the school board that with the state facing a $4.56 billion budget shortfall keeping school funding the same may be the best that can be done for the coming year.
Board member Deb Glenz said that would not provide for any raises, any cost-of-living increases, any inflation. "The real world doesn't work that way. When you have a zero increase, you're going backwards," she said.
At the meeting last week, Stang tried to explain the magnitude of the state deficit. To keep the budget as is would require a 30 percent tax increase, he said. To fix the deficit half by spending cuts and half by tax increases would still require a tax increase of 15 percent. "It is a tremendous problem," he said of the state budget deficit. "I don't know how we're going to do it."
No one expected a deficit this big, added Fischbach. Legislators will have to look at possible solutions once they receive the budget from the governor in January.
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