School board looking at possible tax increase

Published 8:53 pm Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Taxpayers in the Albert Lea school district are looking at a possible tax increase for the 2018-19 levy.

The Albert Lea school board on Monday unanimously approved a $400,000 preliminary levy increase — 5.1 percent, which is the maximum amount the levy could be in December. The amount of the increase could decrease by then.

Analysis on the effect the preliminary tax increase will have on different properties in the community is expected to be gathered.

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The possible increase comes after the state allowed districts to levy more for facility repairs. Over a three-year period, the state is investing more money into funding building repairs, but districts are expected to contribute money, as well. This year’s proposed increase partially meets that need, and the rest of the amount will be invested in the future. The Minnesota Department of Education could still make minor corrections to the levy document this month, said Deputy Superintendent Lori Volz.

Farmers are expected to receive tax relief in the form of an agriculture tax credit.

The board reduced the preliminary levy increase after Volz presented a 6.93 percent maximum preliminary levy increase.

Board Chairman Ken Petersen said, “I’m definitely not for the 6.9 percent increase,” saying it was a lot to ask of the community. He said he wants to be comfortable with any tax levy increase the board approves.

Board member Jill Marin agreed.

“I can’t support a 6.93 percent increase on the community,” said Marin, who noted possible tax increases from other local government entities and expected job losses in the community as reasons why she could not support the tax increase.

Board members discussed reducing the proposed levy to 3.5 percent. Volz said a planned upgrade of the parking lot at Southwest Middle School would be delayed if the levy was reduced to that amount.

The school board approved a nearly 3.6 percent increase in the tax levy last year.

About Sam Wilmes

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

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