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Board votes to increase levy by 1.4% to fund the '11-12 year

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WILLMAR -- The Willmar School Board has approved a 2011 school property tax levy of $6.9 million, an increase of 1.4 percent over the property tax levy paid this year.

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The board voted at its meeting Monday night to approve the levy. The levy will be used to help fund the 2011-12 school year.

The levy makes up one portion of the total property tax bill paid by property owners in Minnesota.

County and city or township levies are also part of each property's total tax bill.

Business and Fin-ance Dir-ector Pam Harrington described the school district's levy at a Truth-in-Taxation pr-esentation at the beginning of the board meeting.

Harrington explained the district's budget, too.

The local property tax levy is set by a state formula, which also dictates how the money is spent, Harrington said.

A voter-approved levy is the only way a school district can increase its property tax levy beyond what's allowed by the state, Harrington said.

The district will receive $2.2 million from two voter-approved levies. One was approved in 2001 and will expire in another year. The other was approved in November 2008.

The current school district budget includes expenditures of $40.9 million in the general fund, which covers the day-to-day operations of the district. The budget also includes $2.4 million for food service, $2.1 million for community education and $2.6 million for debt payments.

The district receives 73 percent of its revenue from state aid, 13.4 percent from local property taxes, 8 percent from federal aid and 5.6 percent from other local revenue.

The high level of state aid "is why we pay so much attention to what goes on at the state level," Harrington said.

Harrington displayed a table showing the basic per-pupil allocation of state aid since 1997-98. There have been increases in some years, but the allocation was frozen at $4,601 from 2002-02 through 2004-05. It has been set at $5,124 since the 2008-09 school year.

The best guess right now, she said, is that schools will remain at the current allocation for some time, because of the state's projected budget deficit.

Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard said there is some talk of cutting the basic allocation as the state deals with the deficit, but those decisions will be made by the 2011 Legislature.

In other business, the board renewed its contract with Fenstra Real Estate to continue representing the district in trying to sell the former Washington School on Willmar Avenue. The contract will last one year. The district has accepted two offers for the building in the past year, but neither of them resulted in a sale.

The board also approved the seniority list, which lists all the tenured teachers by department and by date of hire. The list is used if the district needs to make layoffs.

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Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340
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