School levy rises 1.43 percent

by Jim Boyle

The Elk River Area School Board on Dec. 10 certified its 2012 property tax levy, which amounts to a 1.43 percent increase over last year’s levy of $38,562,466.

The latest levy of $39,113,426, which is payable in 2013, comes on the heels of a 2.9 percent decrease in the levy last year, according to Joe Primus, the Elk River Area School District’s manager of finance.

Primus, who delivered the levy information to the School Board, summarized the school district’s budget, which is expected to bring in nearly  $126 million this year. There are nearly $129 million in projected expenditures, so the district will be tapping into its projected unassigned fund balance of $13.6 million.

The school district gets 80 percent of its revenue from the state, 15 percent from local property taxes and 2 percent from the federal government. The remaining 3 percent comes from miscellaneous forms such as grants, donations, fees and ticket sales.

The bulk of the money goes to cover salary and wages, Primus said. About 10 percent goes to cover purchased services such as transportation, speakers and such.

District 728 also has a Community Education Fund which brought in about $5.7 million. Seventy-two percent of that is generated by user fees, though.

The district also has a debt service fund, to pay for its mortgages on school facilities. It totals nearly $20 million a year, 92 percent of which is covered by property taxes. Only 2 percent is covered by state aid.

The levy set by the School Board Dec. 10 will be paid by taxpayers in 2013 to cover expenses for the 2013–14 school year. Primus said there are many variables, including the district’s tax capacity which dropped by 8 percent. This comes on top of a 4 percent drop last year.

Primus said hopefully property values, which have been dropping since 2008, have leveled off. He said a home valued at $200,000 in 2004 peaked in value in 2008 at about $300,000. It’s now back to a value of $200,000.

The owner of a home valued at $200,000 paid about $850 in school taxes back in 2004 and now pays close to $1,400.

This fall’s operating levy renewal approval did not significantly alter taxes. Voters approved a $398-per-student levy, which is part of an over $698-per-student levy that has been in place for a number of years. These (three) levies generate about $10.9 million for general education, curriculum and technology. They are all in place until 2022.