Duluth School Board OKs 2013 school tax levy
The Duluth School Board approved the preliminary 2013 tax levy Thursday night at the maximum level allowed by the state. The estimated increase is 4.9 percent for taxpayers. Last year it was 5.9 percent. The amount would bring the levy to $25.8 m...
The Duluth School Board approved the preliminary 2013 tax levy Thursday night at the maximum level allowed by the state.
The estimated increase is 4.9 percent for taxpayers. Last year it was 5.9 percent. The amount would bring the levy to $25.8 million, from the current $24.6 million. This annual levy is separate from the operating levy voters will be asked to approve in November.
The amount of increase may change, said Bill Hanson, director of business services, as the district works with the state Education Department to review numbers. The final levy figure will be set by the board in December, and the fiscal year 2013 budget will be approved in June.
If a 4.9 percent increase is approved, that would mean an additional $11.13 a year for the owner of a $100,000 home in 2013, bringing the bill for the year to $358. If the district lowers the levy or keeps it the same, it could lose some matching money from the state because certain portions are subject to levy funds. Some levy expenses are mandated by the state or federal government and must be paid either through the levy or the general fund. If the general fund is used, that could mean more cuts to next year's budget, with a deficit already expected to be between $4 million and $5 million.
The board approved the measure 5-2, with members Gary Glass and Art Johnston voting against it.
Johnston said the increase was asking too much taking into account what's to be asked via the operating levy referendum. The owner of a $125,100 home will be asked to pay $60, $90 or $114 more per year depending on which level, if any, is approved.
"I think 4.9 percent is not insignificant," he said. "Last year it was 5.9. ... Taxes are going up and this proves it."
Hanson said the state recommends approving the maximum amount, because it can be lowered but not
increased after this stage. At least 90 percent of the state's school districts are doing the same, he said.
At one point Johnston began heatedly citing numbers for possible scenarios for taxpayers based on what could be approved via the operating and tax levies, saying the district needs to tell taxpayers how much they will owe.
There are lots of things to make speculations about, said Superintendent I.V. Foster, and the district isn't sure what the numbers will look like.
"I can't allow you to sit back and pontificate about what might happen," Foster said. "We want to make sure we're in the best position to meet our needs."
During the special meeting the board also approved the addition of the equivalent of 1.5 full-time employees. The positions, all half-time, include a dean of students at Morgan Park Middle School and special education teachers at Denfeld High School and Woodland Middle School, at a total cost of $135,000. The money, like that for the roughly 15 full-time equivalent teachers approved in September, comes from the state for increases to the per-pupil funding formula and district enrollment.