Unexpected: School taxes go southThe school board Monday night unanimously approved a 2013 tax levy that will result in slightly lower property tax bills for constituents.
By: Phil Pfuehler, River Falls Journal
The school board Monday night unanimously approved a 2013 tax levy that will result in slightly lower property tax bills for constituents.
Due to conservative earlier estimates and a state-aid boost caused by an infusion of part-time, four-year-old kindergartners, the final levy for taxpayers is lower than predicted at the September Annual Meeting.
The levy to support school district operations for the 2012-13 year is $17,576,603, a more-than $300,000 drop (1.8%) from the last year.
Finance Director Chad Smurawa had forecasted a modest 2.1% tax levy hike. School district residents who turned out for the Sept. 17 Annual Meeting voted to approve that amount.
Instead, one month later, the news is that school taxes will drop.
While the figure will vary depending on what town or city people live in, Smurawa estimated a $40 decline for the average $200,000 home.
For a $100,000 home, about half that amount ($20) in savings. For a $300,000 home, roughly a third more ($60) in savings.
Smurawa said the tax drop is even more significant because of the November 2011 approval of one referendum question for $19 million.
That debt load was expected to be another force boosting school taxes. Instead, due to declining interest rates and refinancing, the debt load has been less of a financial burden.
“Taxes were supposed to go up, but they’re going down,” Smurawa said.
He explained two other factors that have shaped the school district’s tax levy outlook:
- Some 150 four-year-old children participating in the new half-day kindergarten program (RF4C) at a half-dozen sites in the district.
Statistically for purposes of state aid, these children count as 75 full-time students. Their presence offsets an 18-student decline in overall enrollment and boosted state aid to the district.
- Area property values declined more than the anticipated 2% in September. Again, this boosts state aid to cover the difference.
The actual decline district-wide was 2.2%, for a total valuation of $1,610, 415,988.
Since the 2008 Great Recession, the district’s property valuation has declined from a peak of $1,925,046,904.