Mill levy increase met with some skepticism
One mill is around $5573 in Minto School District
A proposed mill levy increase of 22 mills in the Minto School District was met with some skepticism by a few of the district’s taxpayers at a special hearing held by the Minto school board Monday night.
Superintendent Linda Lutovsky and school board members Helen Zikmund, Kristine Stoltman, Doug Ulland, Brad Narloch, Rod Osowski, Gary Slominski and Jamie Medberg attended the meeting. They presented documents including a five-year vision and priorities list for the district and a review of the funding for the district since 2008, which has gone from a high of 185 local mills in the 2008/2009 school year to 110 mills in 2012/13. The district has subcommittees working on specific needs for both the building and technology in the school.
The initial budget drafted by the board was based on a total mill levy of 82 mills. “Based on the five year vision for our school district and the priorities set by our board, parents, and community members, we are proposing a budget that includes this increase in our local mill levy,” said Lutovsky. Some of the specific needs noted at the meeting were new lighting, technology upgrades, and a new bus. “In the Minto district, one mill generates approximately $5573 dollars. A new bus will cost $82,000,” said Lutovsky.
Superintendent Lutovsky explained the new funding formula passed by the N.D. legislature, which uses state revenue to buy down 50 mills from the local mill levy base, puts the local levy at 60 mills. According to a worksheet distributed to those in attendance, even with the proposed mill levy increase, district taxpayers will pay less to the school district than paid in 2012. For example, the owner of a residential home valued at $100,000 would pay $176 less than in 2012. The owner of a quarter of farmland valued at $200,000 would save approximately $380.
According to Lutovsky, in comparison to other local districts, Minto has been budgeting a much lower local levy. In addition to having a lower local levy, the district has a much lower taxable valuation, further impacting the district’s revenue.
For instance, in 2012, the taxable valuation for the Midway School District (Minto combines with Midway in some sports) was $8,937,284 as compared to Minto’s $4,995,482 and their local mill levy was 131.81, while Minto’s was 110. According to data available online from the N.D. Department of Public Instruction, this meant the Midway School District, with a slightly lower enrollment than Minto, had nearly $700,000 more to spend than the Minto district in 2012.
When asked why levies for building and technology funds authorized by voters in the past had not been collected, Lutovsky stated that the Minto board has been extremely conservative and responsible. “But, if we would have collected those levies, our local mill levy total as of today would be in a much better position,” said Lutovsky. “Had we been collecting the technology and building fund mills authorized by the district’s voters back in the 1990s, we wouldn’t need to be having this meeting tonight,” said Lutovsky.
Board member Brad Narloch, who served on the board at the time the building and technology levies were approved, explained that at the time the district had received a gift from deceased former Minto mayor and benefactor Paul Koehmstedt and that the gift had been sufficient to fund additional needs identified by the board.
“The Koehmstedt money wasn’t meant to be tax relief, so we should have collected the technology levy,” said Narloch. “We were just trying to run a tight budget.”
After the public hearing, the school board met to discuss the community input heard at the hearing and to further consider the proposed budget. Doug Ulland, President of the Minto School Board, reported that the board decided to revise their proposal to an increase to 72 mills. “We dropped down to 72 mills, rather than the 82 previously voted on in our initial budget,” said Ulland. “After hearing concerns of the people at the hearing, we compromised and dropped down to 72 mills.”
According to state law, school districts must submit their final budgets by Oct. 10 to the N.D. Dept. of Public Instruction.