Sen. Paul Koering, R-Fort Ripley, said Wednesday he opposed a plan being considered by the Brainerd School Board Finance Committee that would allow the school district to levy up to $23 million of its projected retiree costs onto area taxpayers during the next 13 years.
Koering is the author of a Senate bill that would repeal a 2008 law that empowered school districts to issue bonds that would be paid for through annual school levies. Koering said he doesn't want to see any more levies on property taxes.
"I'm just saying stop, stop, stop," Koering said from St. Paul. "This is enough."
Koering voted for the 2008 tax bill that included a provision to allow school districts to create a trust to pay for Other Post-Employment Benefits costs and issue bonds to fund those trusts, but he said that measure was stuck into larger bill and that he was unaware of its ramifications at the time.
"I just feel my constituents, their backs are against the wall," he said. "They're trying their best to hang on to their homes."
In a news release Koering said "the Brainerd School Board needs to stand down from any tax increases until the Legislature and the governor complete action."
Molly Kurtzman, chair of the Brainerd School Board Finance Committee, said Wednesday her panel has not made any decision on how to follow a mandate to provide access to its health insurance to retirees until age 65. She said it would be discussed at Thursday's committee meeting.
By creating a trust to pay for the OPEB costs, the school district could reduce its operating expenditures. If the district availed itself of the 2008 law, the district could levy the OPEB expenses on all properties, including seasonal recreational properties, unlike voter-approved levies.
Kurtzman said that to her knowledge Koering hadn't contacted school board members or district officials on this issue.
Koering said his legislation would reverse the 2008 enabling legislation. A House bill on this issue, he said, would allow districts to levy the OPEB costs if voters approved it in a referendum.
"We're in dire straits," he said. "Continuing to tax people - it's not going to work."
MIKE O'ROURKE may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5860.
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