St. Louis Park school taxes to drop slightly

A chart shows the percentage of school property taxes approved by voters versus those not approved by voters for taxes payable 2013. (Submitted art)

A chart shows the percentage of school property taxes approved by voters versus those not approved by voters for taxes payable 2013. (Submitted art)

St. Louis Park school taxes will decline in 2013 slightly despite increasing enrollment.

Taxes from an operating referendum will increase 2.55 percent as a result of adjustments made based on the number of resident pupils in the St. Louis Park School District. However, overall property taxes for the district will decline 3.85 percent due to reductions in areas like a health and safety levy, a debt service levy and other changes.

Following a Truth in Taxation hearing at which no one spoke, the St. Louis Park School Board approved a total levy of $21.9 million for taxes payable in 2013, down from $22.8 million for taxes payable in 2012.

In one of the more dramatic changes, a levy for health and safety fell from about $845,000 to about $175,000. The levy is based on actual health and safety projects completed.

“This year our levy was brought down considerably because we didn’t actually do some of those projects that we estimated for taxes payable 2012,” Director of Business Services Sandy Salin said.

In the past, asbestos removal in particular contributed to an increase in the levy.

A levy based on funding for re-employment fell from about $181,500 to about $67,000. Like the health and safety levy, the re-employment levy is adjusted for actual costs incurred.

The district’s debt service levy, used to pay for borrowing costs, decreased 5.75 percent, from about $6.2 million to about $5.9 million. The district has legally charged residents up to 5 percent more than its principal and interest payments to allow for unexpected costs. If the district ends up not needing the additional money, it is returned to taxpayers. Crediting taxpayers for the excess that the district “over-levied” contributed to most of the decline in the debt service levy.

Salin noted 77 percent of property taxes levied by the district are voter-approved. Twenty-three percent are not. The Minnesota Department of Education directs nonvoter approved property taxes.

The School Board has discussed the potential for a bond referendum next fall as well as the renewal of a technology levy.

Salin has discussed the possibility of a bond referendum of between $5 million and $15 million to pay for deferred maintenance and space issues. The district also has the potential to refund its existing bonding at a lower interest rate. The refunding could offset costs from a successful bond referendum for homeowners.

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