ISD #299 officials seek approval of operating levy referendum

By Daniel E. McGonigle

General Manager

The Caledonia Argus

It will be complicated for school board members and school administrators to explain to the general public, but board members are going to try.

Thanks to the state budget passed by the legislature this bi-enium, residents are going to see a significant decrease on the school portion of their property taxes.

However, the board needs to go out for a levy referendum to continue to remain operational.

“It will be confusing to some,” said business manager Barb Meyer.

The language on the special election referendum, which will be held on Nov. 14, was approved by board members to be drafted.

It will read in part, “The board of Independent School District No. 299 has proposed to increase its general education revenue by $460 per pupil. A portion of this proposed referendum revenue authorization would replace the $94.97 per pupil portion of the school district’s prior authorization which expires after taxes payable in 2017.”

“People will get their tax statements and they’ll see how much its gone down,” Meyer said.

She, along with board members and superintendent Ben Barton, were concerned that people would see the disparity in the number $94.97 vs. $460 and immediately vote “no.”

“They’ll see that on the bottom of the ballot that reads ‘by voting ‘yes’ on this ballot question, you are voting for a property tax increase.’”

Farm/commercial set to receive significant tax decrease

As part of the tax bill, farm properties will now be taxed just one acre and the homestead for school district funding.

Even at the $460 amount, taxes will not increase for Ag. land. In fact, the taxes will decrease from $4 to $14 per acre depending on the designation of the property.

The same will be true of commercial/industrial.

A commercial business and building worth $100,000 will first see a $162 tax decrease. By voting ‘yes’ for the referendum, that business owner will vote to give $67 of that decrease back to the school still seeing a decrease overall from last year’s taxes of $98.

The same is true of every business going up from there.

“It is a significant savings over last year for our farmers and businesses,” said Barton.

Home owners

By voting ‘yes’ to the ballot measure, the school district will receive much needed funding.

The amount of $460 was chosen to bring our per-pupil levy amount equal to that which the state will match.

It will actually increase the levy amount by $365.03 and replace the levy amount of $94.97 which is set to expire.

If approved, it will increase the district’s revenues by $257,445, a 0.06710% increase.

A homeowner who’s home is valued at $150,000 will see a decrease in his or her taxes of $136 in reduction from the 2017 to 2018 Ag. credit and maximum effort loan aid (passed amongst the larger tax bill).

A ‘yes’ vote towards supporting student learning would be $101 tax, equaling a savings of $35 over last year’s taxes.

The above information is a gross increase, not including the impact of the homeowner’s Homestead Credit Refund program. Many owners of homestead property will qualify for a refund, based on their income and total property taxes. This will decrease the net effect of the operating referendum even further for many property owners.

However, for the sake of this story, that is too hard to quantify as the numbers vary based on several factors.

Five years

After some discussion regarding going out for a referendum of five years vs. 10 years, the board voted to approve a five-year referendum.

The thinking was based on the inability to project out where things will be based on that long-range timeframe.

The board approved the measure on a unanimous vote.

Language will now be adapted for voters to continue to support the things going on at the school.

“We’re Warriors,” said Barton. “Go anywhere in the state and people know about our school. Schools are the source of so many things, especially in a rural community. People expect us to have a high quality school system they can be proud to be a part of.”

Barton noted that the district has been financially responsible and that they’ve demonstrated the ability to deliver on the promise to operate a high-quality school system. ISD #299 is also coming off of just reducing people’s taxes significantly.

The referendum vote will be held at the Caledonia Area Elementary School from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 14.