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Willmar school taxes to increase 18 percent

WILLMAR -- Property taxes for the Willmar School District are set to increase nearly 18 percent in 2009.

Some of the increase will come from a $201.51-per-student operating levy approved by the district's voters in November. The levy will also increase because of decisions made by the state Department of Education.

Two members of the public and five School Board members attended a Truth-in-Taxation hearing Tuesday evening at the district offices in Willmar. The School Board is scheduled to approve the final tax levy at its meeting Monday.

One man left before the hearing started after Pam Harrington, the district's business and finance director, told him he would not be able to get answers to questions about the property value listed on his tax statement.

The school district does not have anything to do with setting property values. In fact, the district doesn't have much to do with setting its own property tax levy -- the state makes most of those decisions.

The state tells school districts what they will be able to levy each year, with the exception of voter-approved levies.

Because property values in the district increased in the past year, the state is putting more of the burden for paying for schools on the local taxpayers. That means the school share of taxes will be higher next year.

The levy to be paid in 2009 will be $6.6 million, an increase of about $1 million over the levy paid in 2008. About 7 percent of the increase can be attributed to the increase in the levy before the operating levy was passed.

The final levy of $6.6 million is also higher than the preliminary levy the board adopted in September, because of the new operating levy. Tax statements received by taxpayers in the Willmar School District do not include the tax increase associated with the operating levy.

Harrington said taxpayers who want to know the final amount will be able to contact the county auditor's office later this month to learn the final calculation of their property taxes.

The current school year budget includes a projected $43.5 million in expenditures in the general fund, $2.15 million in the food service fund, $1.9 million in the community education fund and $1.5 million in the debt service fund.

The food service, community education and debt service funds are separate from the general fund, and money from one fund cannot be transferred to another.

Revenues for the four funds are expected to fall about $2.6 million short of expenditures, with the difference made up by reserve funds.

Harrington said the information presented at the hearing would be available on the district's Web site,, starting today.