The Free Press, Mankato, MN

September 16, 2013

Mankato Schools preliminary levy shows decrease

Legislature changed funding formula to ease tax burden

By Amanda Dyslin
The Mankato Free Press

---- — MANKATO — The Mankato Area Public Schools preliminary tax summary for the 2014-15 school year shows a decrease of about 5.6 percent.

The projected levy amount is decreasing by about $977,500, from $17.43 million in the 2013-14 school year to $16.45 million in 2014-15. That would result in a 4.22 percent decrease to the general fund, from $11.17 million to $10.7 million, said Jerry Kolander, director of business affairs.

“That’s good news to the taxpayer,” said Kolander, who added that it’s too early to put a dollar amount on potential property-tax decreases.

Property-tax relief and funding “equalization” is what the state Legislature had in mind when changing some of its funding formulas during the past year, Kolander said. To ease the tax burden on property owners, the state lowered the levy amount and increased state aid (which is based on per-pupil funding) to make up the difference.

New funding for all-day, everyday kindergarten will also kick in for the 2014-15 school year. With an estimate of 650 kindergartners in the 2014-15 school year, Mankato would receive an additional $1.7 million in state funding for all-day kindergarten.

Student funding is weighted by grade level, but the overall increase is about 1.5 percent per pupil, Kolander said. The district will know in October when enrollment figures are tallied what the total funding increase will be.

Enrollment in Mankato schools has been on the rise for years and is projected to increase another 10 percent over the next five years. Per-pupil state funding makes up the largest portion of revenue in the budget.

In June, the preliminary budget showed state revenues of $62.5 million made up about 70.5 percent of all funds. Property tax levies made up $14.9 million or 16.8 percent. And the remaining $11.3 million, or 12.7 percent, came from other revenue sources.

Kolander said the levy projection is especially difficult this year because the Department of Education is still hashing out its own complicated calculations due to legislative changes.

Based on current calculations that still could change, the School Board voted to adopt the preliminary maximum levy Monday night. The deadline for districts to set final maximum levies is Sept. 30.

“I don’t see a large change coming to the amounts,” Kolander said.

Notices of proposed property taxes will be sent to taxpayers in November. The School Board will review the levy and budget at its Dec. 3 meeting and will vote to adopt the final tax levy Dec. 16.

Supt. Sheri Allen said being able to ease the tax burden on area residents is a good thing. The levy was also decreased this fiscal year by 2.18 percent due in part to the expiration of the 20-year bonding levy from 1992 for Dakota Meadows Middle School.

“We’re pretty happy about that,” she said.

The district will be putting a $69.5 million bond question to voters Nov. 5 for major construction projects, including an addition to Dakota Meadows and a new middle school building on the east side.

If the referendum passes, the tax hike for the average $150,000 homestead would be $94 per year, or $7.83 per month. For commercial property valued at $500,000, the tax increase would be $685 per year. And for agricultural land, the hike would be $274 per year for a $630,000 property.

There will be two public informational sessions on the projects and bonds in October. The sessions are 6:30-8 p.m. Oct. 3 at East; and 6:30-8 p.m. Oct. 8 at Dakota Meadows.