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School Board approves annual tax levy, includes smaller increase than originally projected

Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019 — At its meeting on Monday, the South St. Paul School Board approved the 2019 payable 2020 tax levy as presented. In September, the Board approved a preliminary levy at the maximum to allow flexibility as it refined its budget and received updated data from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE). However, over the last few months the district was able to reduce the overall increase from the preliminary amount and in turn help ease the burden on property owners.  Photo of generic SSP house

South St. Paul Public Schools (SSPPS) homeowners will see a 5.83 percent increase on their 2019 Payable 2020 property tax levy, which is considerably less than the increase preliminarily approved by the board in September. While half of the increase is the due to a combination of annual cost increases and new payments for the purchase of the River Heights Professional Building, the other half of the levy increase is the result of rising property values in the community. 

“This year, South St. Paul saw an increase in the average of residential property values of over 13 percent, which is good for homeowners,” said Aaron Bushberger, director of finance. “But that increase in property values means the state provides less in aid and instead shifts more onto the taxpayer. The amount of revenue coming into the district does not change, but how the revenue gets divided between local taxes and state aid does.” 

This state aid shift is the reason that SSPPS and similar districts have lobbied the Legislature for years to change the state’s outdated referendum equalization formula. “As we have been saying for years, the state’s funding formula is broken,” said Superintendent Dave Webb. “We need improved equalization so that we can level the playing for all Minnesota school districts, including South St. Paul.” 

Bushberger said that the district’s annual levy has increased by an average of about two percent over the past 10 years. “If you take out the voter-approved referendum in 2017, the average levy increase has been about 0.4 percent over the past 10 years,” he said. “And last year’s levy actually decreased by one percent from the previous year.” Nonetheless, we appreciate that any increase has an impact on our homeowners, which is why we worked hard to keep the increase as modest as possible.”