Archive for Thursday, July 22, 2004

School budget feels impact of property tax accelerator

July 22, 2004

If the USD 491 Board of Education approves its proposed budget next month, residents living in the school district could be looking at a mill levy rate of 66.135 next year. That would be an increase of about two mills from last year.
Superintendent Marty Kobza attributed the proposed rise in the mill levy to the property tax accelerator, which had property owners paying taxes a month sooner than usual. That meant the school district collected more money last fiscal year, but it will reap less this fiscal year. Increasing the mill levy would help keep the district status quo, Kobza said.
During the Board meeting July 15, Kobza said with a proposed mill rate just two mills more than last year and still nearly a mill less than 2002-2003, the district was meeting its goal of keeping the mill rate steady. "We've been able to stabilize it quite a bit," he said. "We're trying...so people don't end up having peaks and valleys (in their property tax payments)."
Another factor contributing to the mill increase from last year was the growing enrollment. More students meant a bigger general fund, and Kobza said that made 25 percent of the general fund the school could collect in its local option budget a bigger number. Under the current proposed budget, the district would reap about $1.8 million from the LOB.
Next year, Kobza said the district was pessimistically anticipating the equivalent of 25 new full-time students with hopes the number would be larger than that.
Kobza told the Board the good news was that the district was within its budget and able to get balances back up and not use contingency reserves.
"We're very, very solid fiscally," he said.
This year will be the last the district will get new facilities money from the state for the new high school. Kobza said that special consideration amounted to about $370,000.
It was a nice amount, but he said the downside was that because it wasn't a permanent contribution the district couldn't invest it in ongoing spending, such salaries or programs. Instead, Kobza said the district used it for one-time expenses like as library books.
Earlier this year when taxes were due, district officials found themselves fielding questions from property owners who owed more with last year's lower mill levy rate than they had the year previous with a higher rate. Kobza has said he had to remind taxpayers that lower mill rates can't always overcome increasing property valuations.
The Board will have a public hearing on budget before considering its approval at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 12 at the district office, 1002 Elm St.

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