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Area school boards set 2010 levies

By Staff | Dec 21, 2009

School boards in Faribault County set their official 2010 levy amounts last week.

Blue Earth Area District

Not every governmental body in Faribault County is raising their tax levy in 2010.

The Blue Earth Area School Board voted Monday night to set their tax levy for next year at an amount 3.08 percent less than this year.

That will make the local levy $1.332 million for 2010, down slightly from the year before.

The BEA School Board had voted in September to set a proposed levy at the maximum amount determined by the state, although an exact number was not known at the time.

Allan Wilhelmi, BEA’s fiscal services coordinator, gave a detailed report on both the budget and the levy amount. It was part of the regular meeting, but also was the school board’s Truth In Taxation hearing.

Last year the school districtraised their levy by just .26 percent, Wilhelmi says. The state at that time did not mandate a Truth In Taxation hearing.

“This year every governmental unit has to hold one,” he says. “But they are allowing us to do it as part of the regular school board meeting and not mandating us to hold a special meeting.”

No members of the general public were in attendance at the hearing.

Wilhelmi detailed the school’s budget, which shows declines in both revenues and expenditures.

Revenues are projected to be down 4.15 percent from the previous year, to $13.2 million. Expenditures were decreased by 1.91 percent, to $13.5 million. The difference may be made up by using reserves.

Of course, there are two school tax levies, Wilhelmi pointed out. The one was set by the board on Monday night. The other was voted on by the taxpayers in the district in November.

A special levy referendum was passed 1,199 to 270. It will raise $650 per pupil unit, or $900,000. Of that, the state will pay roughly half.

The 2010 levy and the 2009-10 budget were not the only financial items reported on at the meeting.

The board also heard from Bradley Carlton of Larson-Allen, who gave the audit report from the 2008-09 fiscal year, which ended in June.

Carlton’s audit report showed the district was in sound financial shape, and included comparisons to other districts, and the state-wide average for different areas. In most areas BEA compared quite well to the state average.

Carlton showed the district had an unreserved fund balance of $4.3 million on June 30. The fund balance has stayed in the range of $3.5 to $4.5 million over the past five years.

However, the reserved fund balance had decreased to $2,427 at the end of June. The year before the balance was $156,187, and was $262,450 at its high point over the past five years.

Carlton said the low balance was not a great concern, and said the expenditures had mainly been used for staff development, which was good.

He also pointed to a $363,000 balance in the operating capital account, and called it excellent. The fund can be used for upkeep on buildings.

One fund was in the negative. Health and Safety showed a negative balance of $83,000. Carlton was not concerned, he said, as the fund balance should catch up with the new levy.

USC School District

After several months of crunching the numbers, United South Central School Board approved the 2010 budget and ratified a two-year contract for the district’s teachers.

There will be a 15.7 percent increase in next year’s tax levy, an increase of $181,770 from last year.

Jodell Timm of the district’s business office presented budget information during a Truth and Taxation held Tuesday night.

No one from the public was in attendance.

Timm says a large portion of the levy hike is attributed to the Health and Safety Levy, which totals nearly $128,000. Last year, nothing was budgeted.

The district also must supplement $30,000 more for the operating referendum levy. The state next year will pay 40 percent of the $1.035 million generated by the referendum. That compares to 42 percent for this year.

The amount paid for health insurance benefits of retirees also has gone up about $15,000.

Despite the double-digit levy increase, the district’s financial condition is better than previous years when it was thought to be in statutory operating debt.

As of June 30, the cash reserves total more than $1.09 million.

Board chair Christie Wetzel says the district has been “free-falling financially” the past six years.

“We have felt the wrath of what statutory operating debt can do,” she says.