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Board approves preliminary tax levy at maximum while working to reduce overall increase and ease burden on property owners
Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019 — At its meeting on Monday, Sept. 23, the South St. Paul School Board approved the preliminary tax levy for 2019 payable 2020. In keeping with past practice, the Board approved the maximum of the proposed levy with the intent of continuing to review levy categories for possible adjustments. District officials said that they are working with the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) to reduce the overall increase and ease the burden on property owners.
“It is typical for school districts to approve the preliminary tax levy at the maximum allowed in order to maintain flexibility,” said Aaron Bushberger, director of finance. “Doing so provides the district time to work with the MDE and reduce the overall amount, which we are committed to doing. Our hope is that the final levy amount homeowners will see on their property tax statements in November will be significantly less than 8.3 percent.”
Bushberger explained that every year the district reviews a number of factors that influence how local tax levies are calculated. Of the proposed 8.3 percent increase, about 3.5 percent of the increase is the result of the district’s recent purchase of the River Heights Professional Building. But the largest factor in the proposed increase is due to rising property values. “This year, South St. Paul saw an increase in property values of over 12 percent, which is good for homeowners,” he said. “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.”
Superintendent Dave Webb added that South St. Paul Public Schools (SSPPS) is once again negatively impacted by the state’s outdated referendum equalization formula. “As we have been saying for years, the state’s funding formula is broken,” said Webb “We need improved equalization so that we can level the playing for all Minnesota school districts, including South St. Paul.”
Minnesota school districts are required to approve preliminary levies by Sept. 30. Between now the levy’s final certification in December, Bushberger said the district will work with MDE officials and hopefully reduce the overall increase of the 2019 Payable 2020 property tax levies. Dakota County will be mailing property tax statements to homeowners in November. The district has scheduled a public hearing on the tax levy for Monday, Dec. 9, after which the School Board will vote to certify the final district levy.