Brainerd School District voters will decide whether to approve an operating referendum that would affect how much of a decrease taxpayers would realize in property taxes.
School funding has been turned on its head as the state shoulders a greater fiscal responsibility to educate youths. Brainerd School District officials said the change has created a total increase in public education funding that is not adequate and will mean cuts in a few years. In response, the Brainerd School Board proposed an operating referendum. The public will vote Nov. 6 on the proposed operating referendum.
Regardless of the referendum outcome, property taxes, which helped pay a lion's share of school funding, will go down as the state takes on a larger burden.
"So they (property taxpayers) are going to see a big drop," said Steve Dickinson, Brainerd School District business manager. "It just depends on how much."
On a $100,000 market value home, the school district portion of property taxes, per year, would increase:
-- $50.51 with an operating levy based on $195 per pupil unit.
-- $32.89 with an operating levy based on $146 per pupil unit.
Source: Brainerd School District
Before the legislative changes were made affecting how schools are funded, Brainerd had an existing operating referendum of $315 per pupil unit. Dickinson said when the state took on general education funding, the Legislature rolled away the existing levy.
In a prepared statement regarding the operating referendum, the school board noted the new school funding formula is the "biggest change in school finance since 1971."
Passing the referendum would provide a taxing authority of $195 per pupil unit, which is slightly more than a physical counting of an individual student. Dickinson said there are about 7,300 students in the district, but the pupil units actually count about 8,000. The proposed referendum revenue would apply for 10 years unless revoked or reduced through legal channels.
The Brainerd School Board plans to levy $146 per pupil unit of its operating referendum authority until voters approve additional education space, such as a new building, through a bond election and until that building becomes operational. That is not a legally binding plan as the newly elected board could change its decision.
The Brainerd School Board earlier decided to seek an operating referendum levy of $195 per pupil unit in the Nov. 6 election. The ballot question is for the $195 amount. But $49 per pupil unit of the total $195 per pupil unit has been designated for operational costs of additional education space that the Brainerd School District voters may consider in the future in order to come up with the $146 per pupil unit amount.
An operating referendum of $195 per pupil unit would generate about $1.6 million per year, of which 47 percent would be funded by the state. The school board stated money would be used to maintain programs, class size and technology. The school board also pointed to additional needs that include all-day, every-day kindergarten and operating costs of new school buildings should future decisions move in that direction.
If the operating referendum is passed and only $146 per pupil unit is levied, the school district portion of property taxes would decrease 60 percent in 2002, Dickinson said. If voters turn down the operating referendum, they would see a larger decrease, about a 70 percent in the school district portion of property taxes.
A homeowner with an estimated market value home of $100,000 would pay $32.89 for an operating levy using the $146 per pupil unit. The tax would be $50.51 if the levy were based on $195 per pupil unit.
Since levy documents, needed for an exact number, were not ready by the Monday meeting from the state Department of Children, Families and Learning, the board will have to certify the proposed levy at a special meeting before Sept. 30.
For both homestead and non-homestead agricultural property, the school district portion of property taxes affected by an operating referendum would be based on the market value of a house, garage and one-acre of land only. The market value of additional agricultural land and buildings would be excluded. Seasonal recreational residential property owners would not pay taxes for the proposed referendum.
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