District 15 board approves final levy

The St. Francis School Board has voted 5-2 to adopt a final tax levy totaling $11.1 million to cover operations and debt service for the 2014-2015 school year.

The levy to be payable in 2014 represents a 2.66 percent increase over the 2013 levy that is funding the current year. Board members Suzanne Erkel and Marsha Van Denburgh voted against the increase Dec. 9, following their no votes Sept. 23 when the district prepared to certify its preliminary levy.

Erkel and Van Denburgh said at previous meetings that they disagreed with the Legislature’s decision this year to allow school districts the opportunity to raise existing levies for operations without voter approval.

According to Scott Nelson, associate director of business services, the state decision brought District 15 into a seven-county metro taxing authority as the district has land in Anoka County.

District voters approved an operating levy of $365 per resident pupil unit in 2009, with state dollars covering 28 percent, but the legislative action in 2013 allowed the board to consider raising that levy to $424 per “adjusted” pupil unit without a referendum.

Funding determined by adjusted pupil units means that district taxpayers are supporting only students who attend district schools. That includes students from other districts who have open enrolled in St. Francis, and excludes District 15 residents who are not at these schools.

Nelson said this increase and shift will raise an extra $200,000 for district operations in 2014-2015.

The state further is allowing districts to levy an additional $300 per adjusted pupil unit, again without a referendum, and state funds will cover 57 percent of those levies in the districts whose boards have approved them.

Nelson said that is the largest percentage state subsidy he has seen for any levy through his 34 years of work in school finance. He said this levy should raise an additional $1.5 million for District 15 next year.

These combined levy increases would have the owner of an average $150,000 home property paying $27 more in school taxes next year.

But Nelson said that tax impacts for a certain property will also depend on changes in assessed property value.