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School board approves 1.17% levy increase

The Albert Lea school board on Monday approved a 1.17% — or about $105,000 — levy increase.

Jennifer Walsh, executive director of finance and operations for the district, said the 2020 pay 2021 levy is divided into three parts: a general fund, a community service fund and a debt service fund. 

According to Walsh, factors that impacted the 2020-21 budget were enrollment numbers and COVID-related grants and expenditures. 

The new levy would increase property taxes from $433 to $435 on a residential home valued at $100,000, as long as the value of the property did not change, according to Walsh.

The local levy represents 11% of the district’s revenue budget, while state aid represents about 83%. 

The general fund makes up the largest portion of the pay levy with $6,006,600, an increase of $291,826 from last year. Community education saw a small decrease coming in at $235,186, which was $3,186 less than 2019-20. Debt service went from $3,031,244 to $2,284,266, after the OPEB debt service was taken off the books and LTFM debt service was added. 

The board voted 6-1 to pass the levy, with board member Jill Marin being the only dissenting vote. Marin said the reason for her no vote was because the levy was for its maximum amount. 

The board also discussed the new league fees imposed by the Minnesota State High School League. Split into two installments of $4,500, the fees amount to $9,000 on top of what the schools pay in membership dues. 

Paul Durbahn, activities director for the district, said the school board has sent letters to the MSHSL board of directors asking questions about the new fees. 

Board member Ken Petersen said he still hasn’t seen enough from the MSHSL for him to be on board with the added fees. 

“We’ve had these discussions, they talk about the financial status and asking for more money, but they’ve still shown us nothing of what they’ve done to contain or limit costs,” Petersen said. 

Durbahn said the MSHSL board had recently accepted a grant from the MSHSL Foundation, which awarded $250,000 to be used in helping Class A and AA schools pay their fees. However, Albert Lea is a Class AAA school and was not eligible for the assistance. 

No action was taken in relation to the MSHSL fees, and board chairman Dave Klatt said it would be tabled until the next board meeting.

About Tyler Julson

Tyler Julson covers sports for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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