The final 2013 tax levy for the Pequot Lakes School District was certified Monday night, Dec. 17, at $4,780,569.69. This is a 6.6 percent increase from the 2012 levy, which was $4,484,509.87.
The approved amount includes the $1 per student levy that voters renewed in November and debt service for the $33 million building bond. Lea St. Onge, school district business manager, described debt service as the district’s mortgage payment to its bonds.
The increase in the levy mainly came from the health and safety fund, St. Onge said.
This year, non-bond levies were lowered 10 percent to compensate for the increase in debt service from the bond referendum. Most of that reduction was in the health and safety fund. Next year some of that money will come back; in 2013, the health and safety fund portion of the levy totals $169,877.36.
St. Onge said that lowering those non-bond levies kept the levy consistent with the predictions of levy changes the district made when it asked voters to pass the referendum.
Last year, the Echo reported that the Pequot Lakes School District’s total levy went down 10 percent. Actually, only non-bond levies decreased 10 percent. Overall, the bond referendum for building additions and renovations drove the total levy up 23.77 percent from 2011 to 2012.
The 2013 levy was passed on a 6-1 vote with board member Mark Liedl opposed. Liedl said he was seeing many local governments passing levies, most of which are frozen or lowered from previous amounts.
“What I don’t understand is what makes this local government (the school board) so different from all the others that we have to increase our levy?” Liedl said.
Superintendent Rick Linnell responded that some levy dollars are based on student enrollment, which is out of the district’s control.
“If you have more students, you have a higher levy,” said board member Kim Bolz-Andolshek.
“The question is, are we running as efficiently as we can?” Liedl said.
He also asked whether lowering the health and safety fund in 2012, and bringing it back up to its current levels in 2013, is a “bait and switch.” Linnell disagreed.
A truth in taxation hearing was held just before the school board’s regular monthly meeting Monday night, Dec. 17, when the levy was approved.
Three property owners in the district arrived at the meeting, but after discussion with staff, none stayed for the prepared presentation, so it was not given.