District looks at higher taxes for maintenance

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Tax money will be used with state aid for projects

Taxes may rise in the next few years within the Albert Lea Area School District to help fund maintenance projects, according to Mike Funk, Albert Lea Area Schools superintendent.

Mike Funk

Mike Funk

Taxes will be affected minimally this fall, Funk said. They will likely increase by 5 to 10 percent in three years based upon the maintenance needs of the school district and as state aid kicks in, he said.

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“It’s very significant for us that we can tap into these dollars,” Funk said. “That’s a small cost as opposed to having to build a new building. This allows us to put more money into education rather than the upkeep of buildings.”

The plan comes after the Minnesota Legislature came out with a law saying all state school boards can now levy for maintenance at the local level, providing an additional revenue stream for school districts. This is the first year all school districts have had this authority.

“Keeping your facilities in good condition is a good, pro-active approach,” said Lori Volz, Albert Lea Area Schools deputy superintendent. “It will cost more if you let your structures fall into disrepair.”

Volz said the changes allow the school district to get repair projects done faster.

Larger school districts have had this funding mechanism for years, because they had the political clout, Funk said.

Projected school district annual maintenance expenditures for the next 10 years include:

2017: $689,110

2018: $1,049,110

2019: $1,349,110

2020: $1,354,110

2021: $1,364,110

2022: $1,359,110

2023: $1,354,110

2024: $1,354,110

2025: $1,344,110

2026: $1,359,110

The Minnesota Department of Education required a ballpark projection of 10-year expenditures if the school district wanted to have the revenue accessed and the state aid that goes along with it. The estimates aren’t set, Funk said. The school board approved the 10-year-plan earlier this month at a meeting.

The school district is looking at a number of projects in the next few years, including parking lot improvements, roof upgrades, brickwork and redoing the track at Jim Gustafson Field.

Funk said the repairs are pretty typical of school district projects to upkeep facilities. He said the difference with this is there are more state funds available to help the school district.

The final levy will be set in December. The local levy is about $5 million out of the school’s $50 million budget, according to Volz. More details will be available when the board certifies the preliminary levy Sept. 21.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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