School board approves preliminary 4% levy increase

Published 9:09 pm Tuesday, September 27, 2022

The Albert Lea school board on Monday approved a proposed levy increase of over 4%, which could generate an additional $380,000 for the district. 

Jennifer Walsh, director of finance and operations for the district, who presented to members of the school board Monday night, said most of the increase in the 2022 pay 2023 levy “is occurring in the general fund, and when the voters approved our renewal of our operating referendum, they approved that there would be an inflationary factor each year.” 

Walsh said that increase would be “significantly less” than the tax base increase.

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The general fund increased by about $386,000. The operating referendum was adjusted for 2.38% inflation. The levy portion of the local optional revenue increased, as well.

According to Walsh, the district had a negative adjustment in the general fund last year for facility bonds, but this year’s negative adjustment shrunk.

Walsh said the levy is spread out over the tax base of the entire community, and that tax base is increasing by a higher rate than the school district’s portion of property taxes.

That means for someone with a $100,000 home, their tax rate will go down because of the increased tax capacity.

“Even if your home increases, the school district portion of your levy is going to increase by a lesser rate than your property value increased,” she said.

In 2022, school property tax for a $100,000 home was $417, while next year Walsh projects it will be $366.

“When you think of property taxes, it’s a specific dollar amount, and that amount is spread out to taxpayers based on the tax base,” she said. “… If the levy’s at $100,000, and it’s spread out over a tax base of 100,000, then everybody would pay $1.”

But if that tax base was 200,000, then each person would pay 50 cents under the same $100,000 levy. Walsh said those decreases can occur with higher property values or more commercial property.

She also pointed out that property owners with minimal increase in property values would see a decrease in their share of school district property tax.

Ag2School Bond Credit will also increase 10%, and now 70% of tax responsibility will be shifted to the state paying the district toward school building bonds.

Debt service will see a decrease of about $10,630, while the Community Education portion of the levy increased about $4,400.

In total, the proposed levy for 2023 will be about $9.438 million, an increase of about $380,000, or a 4.2% increase. Included in the proposed levy is the estimated payment of the bond sales for school safety from Monday’s meeting,

“The payment of the bond, which is about $456,000, that school year payment for fiscal year ’23-24, we’re going to have to make a payment on this million dollar bond sale,” she said. “That payment is included in this levy.”

The board will vote on the final levy in December.