A first: SLP Schools sets preliminary levy under the maximum allowed

Staff Writer
Since 2013, I have primarily covered the Anoka-Hennepin and Spring Lake Park school districts as well as the city of Spring Lake Park for ABC Newspapers.

The Spring Lake Park School Board took the unusual step of certifying its proposed preliminary property tax levy at a figure under the maximum amount allowed by state formulas Sept. 26.

Historically, the School Board, like most others in Minnesota, has approved the maximum preliminary property tax levy, providing maximum flexibility.

Before finalizing the levy in December, the board can choose to underlevy, but it cannot increase the levy after setting the preliminary levy.

“We’ve underlevied the last two years,” said Amy Schultz, director of business services for the district.

The board underlevied in December by approximately $450,000 in 2015 and $957,087 last year.

But tax statements mailed to residents by the county in November calculate taxes using the preliminary property tax levy the board sets, so underlevying later in the year means estimates are inflated.

This year the district decided to approve a figure under the maximum now rather than wait until December so that residents can be “comfortable when they actually get their statement,” Schultz said. “We did give up a little flexibility in doing it this way.”

With referendum market values in the district soaring to $3.3 billion, equalization formulas shift revenue streams from aid to levy in many cases.

The maximum equates to a 5.5 percent increase from 2017 taxes, which the board felt was too high.

“We didn’t want to alarm taxpayers,” Superintendent Jeff Ronneberg said.

Board members opted to halve the increase, approving a $22.86 million preliminary levy, which represents a 2.7 percent increase from 2017.

On a $200,000 home, the average home in the district, Schultz estimates taxes would increase approximately $15 in 2018.

The School Board will set the final levy after the annual Truth in Taxation hearing Dec. 12.

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