School board approves proposed 6.67% levy increase

Published 12:36 pm Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The Albert Lea school board approved certification of the proposed 2023 pay ’24 levy for the maximum levy authority, after Jennifer Walsh, executive director of finance, proposed it to the school board Monday night.

In total, between the general fund, community service and debt service, Walsh is projecting the levy service to increase 6.67%, meaning the total proposed levy is just over $10 million.

The largest increase is coming from the general fund, with the total increase from last year to the 2023 pay ’24 levy over $730,063.

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“The first reason [for an increase] is that when voters approved our operating referendum, they did approve that that would increase by inflation,” she said, noting that the Minnesota Department of Education determined what the inflation rate would be. For the pay ‘24 levy, that will be 2.57%.

Another large reason for the increase is a $200,000 2021-’22 fiscal year adjustment.

“Back when we approved that levy we were making some assumptions on our pupil count,” she said. “The actual ended up larger and so now we are recognizing, or we will be recognizing that revenue that we are entitled to based on our actual pupil units per [fiscal year] ’22.”

Within the general fund there is a levy portion as well as a state-aid portion, with the balance of those two based on per pupil amount of the tax base.

So while the tax base has been increasing, enrollment is staying relatively the same or decreasing. That means the per pupil tax base is going up, and  as that goes up, the mix between levy and aid changes, with more coming from the levy.

“Our total revenue that we will be recognizing is actually going to be less based on some assumptions for [fiscal year] ’25,” she said. “Our total revenue will be down $272,000, but the levy portion is increasing fairly significantly.”

Using operating capital as an example, she said the 2021 pay ’22 year, the levy portion was 26.4% of total revenue. Last year’s levy was 28.3% of total revenue. For this year, it’s 35.1% of the total revenue.

“Between that $200,000 adjustment and that shift in the levy versus pay revenue, that’s what’s accounting for the increase.”

In terms of Community Education, Walsh expected a decrease of over $75,500.

“In the past we’ve had no state-aid component to Community Ed,” she said. “That changed this year.”

Now, the district will receive roughly $90,000 and replace what would have been levied. The amount per resident the district is receiving for Community Ed also increased.

Between total levy revenue and state aid, Walsh projected the district would get an increase in Community Ed revenue of $15,000.

She projected the debt service levy to decrease over $34,000.

In total, for a home valued at $100,000, the school district portion of the levy will increase roughly 4.37%, from $366 to $382, which Walsh described as “far less than a home valued at that amount paid in 2017.” That year, the school district portion of the levy was $404. In 2022, it was $417.

“This is approval of a preliminary levy,” Walsh said following the meeting. “We anticipate that the final levy will be the same amount and the school district will consider that at the December Truth in Taxation meeting.”