July 16, 2007

Dassel-Cokato is part of a 'property poor' school district

Wright County assessor explains levy impact for school district taxpayers

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

Wright County Assessor Gregory Kramber was invited to attend the Dassel-Cokato School Board meeting Monday to address local property taxes.

Kramber explained the 14 reasons why property taxes vary from year to year with one of them being changes to the school district’s budget and levy.

The information came collectively from the Association of Minnesota Counties, the Minnesota School Board Association, and the League of Minnesota Cities.

Much of the taxable property within the DC School District is agriculture, where the homestead is taxed at .55 percent (barns, etc.) of the market value and the house, garage, and one acre is taxed at 1 percent the same as residential property. Commercial or businesses, are taxed 3 percent, according to Kramber.

With the low ratio of commercial versus agricultural and residential, property DC is considered a “property-poor” school district, or not of high tax capacity.

“This just points out why it takes greater effort for us [the district[ to raise money locally,” said Superintendent Jeff Powers.

Cities like Buffalo and Monticello, both in Wright County, have more commercial property that is taxed, giving school districts a greater sum of money versus taxes from residential and agricultural land, explained Kramber.

Property owners can call their local assessor for a reevaluation of their property, which is assessed once every five years, according to Kramber.

The legislature determines basic funding levels for k-12 education and mandates services that schools must perform. On average, approximately 70 percent of school costs are paid by the state, but in certain circumstances, the local school district will set levies, according to the information given.

Other reasons for property tax increases include changes in the market value of a property as well as others in the same taxing district, the state’s general taxes, a city’s, township, and/or county budget or levy, and more.

In other business

To begin discussion of the upcoming levy, Tina Palmer, district business manager informed the board of the district’s financial shortage for the 2008-09 school year.

Palmer estimated the district will be spending $350,000 on the cost of social security, medicare, and retirement funds for that year. The district is estimated to receive $218,000 from the state in additional funding, according to Palmer.

With next year being a bonding year in the legislature, education is not expecting any more additional funding other than the $218,000.

This figure alone would leave the district deficit spending by at least $130,000 without considering any additional needs.

“We have to keep in mind for needs in the future as well,” Powers said.

To board is planning to begin preparation for the fall election by recruiting a levy committee and looking for ways to communicate the needs to the public.

A communication strategy may include another community forum this fall.

The next school board meeting will be Thursday, July 19, at which the board will choose a replacement for Karen Ness’ position on the school board. Currently, there are seven applicants.

The district will be having an auction for the vocational home Wednesday, August 8 at 6 p.m. An opportunity to inspect the home prior to the auction will be available Thursday, August 2 at 5 p.m.

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