ST. PAUL (AP) -- As dozens of Minnesota school districts prepare to ask voters to approve property tax increases this fall, they're using different and sometimes confusing methods to describe the effect of the taxes.
In recent days a flurry of required mailings and informational brochures have gone out to residents of more than half the state's school districts. But the explainers are leaving some residents cross-eyed.
Some spell out the additional cost of the school tax in a simple two-column format. Others are easier to figure with a calculator.
In the Rosemount-Eagan-Apple Valley district, the required mailing to residents includes a three-column table showing that school taxes on a $200,000 home will decline by $171 if a proposed levy referendum doesn't pass and will increase $180 if it does pass. To find out how much of their property tax decrease they'd actually give up by voting for the levy, homeowners need to add $171 and $180 to get $351 -- the total increase.
Minnesotans' property tax bills are decreasing in 2002 after sweeping changes the Legislature made to the property tax system earlier this year. State sales and income tax receipts are taking over a large portion of the cost of public education. On average, Minnesota homeowners are expected to see a 22 percent decrease in their property tax bills.
At the same time, many school districts are pursuing voter-approved levy increases this fall, a situation school administrators say wasn't unexpected.
Several DFL legislators complained during the session that Gov. Jesse Ventura and House Republicans provided property tax relief at the expense of education. School districts are trying to explain the effects to voters.
Some groups are encouraging voters to question the large number of referendums.
"The reason why we think this is an opportunity for local governments and school districts to raise taxes is it's a time of maximum confusion," said David Strom, legislative director of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota.
He said taxpayers are hoping that there will be lower taxes and school districts are trying to get the message across that there will be.
While some school districts are truly struggling financially, Strom said, he thinks others are using the confusion to pad their budgets.
State statutes say the required mailing from the school district needs to project "the anticipated amount of tax increase in annual dollars and annual percentage" for residential and other types of property.
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