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2 percent increase in property taxes planned under preliminary school levy

WILLMAR -- A preliminary property tax levy indicates that school taxes in the Willmar School District will increase 2 percent next year.

The School Board adopted a preliminary levy Monday afternoon. The levy, to be collected in 2010, was set at $6,724,530.56.

That's about $117,000 more than the levy collected this year.

The school district is required to adopt a preliminary levy by Sept. 30, said Director of Business and Finance Pam Harrington.

The school levy is one part of a property's total tax bill, which also includes city and county tax levies.

The levy is part of the district's overall $47.6 million projected revenue for this year. About $41 million of that is dedicated to the school operations.

The levy could change before the final adoption in December, depending on information from the state Department of Education.

The state tells school districts how much they are allowed to levy. Districts are allowed to levy less than the amount set by the state but not more.

The only way a school district can increase its property tax levy is through a voter-approved operating levy.

The Willmar School District approved a referendum last fall. Most of the increase in the levy can be attributed to the operating levy referendum.

Harrington described the changes in the levy for the School Board.

The state uses a variety of formulas to determine the levy and "different categories have different formulas," she said.

The referendum portion of the levy, $2.15 million, is determined by the number of students, with the state allowing more to be collected for older students and less for younger ones.

The general fund levy, $1.7 million, is projected to be about $83,000 less than last year. Property values and the tax capacity of the district are taken into account in determining how much of the general fund levy comes from local taxpayers and how much from state aid.

State formulas determine what school districts pay their entire community education levy and which ones are eligible for state aid. Willmar taxpayers pay the entire $380,000, a projected increase of $55,000 over this year.

The state requires districts to levy 105 percent of the amount needed to make bond payments. The debt service levy will be a total of $2.5 million, an increase of about $48,000.

The debt service is used to make payments on the bonds on the high school, which opened in 1994 and to make payments on capital facilities bonds issued several years ago.

Harrington said the levy information would be available on the district's Web site today. Go to, click on District and then on Finance.

The board also briefly discussed the district's vacant property. The board had approved the sale of the Washington building on Willmar Avenue, but the sale was not completed.

Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard said the district's real estate agent will continue to market it.

Kjergaard recommended the district have both the Garfield and Lincoln buildings appraised. The Lincoln building will close in December after a new kindergarten addition opens at Roosevelt Elementary. Only kindergarteners attend school there now. Garfield now houses the Area Learning Center, the district's alternative high school.

"It would give us some idea of what they are worth," Kjergaard said. He suggested that the district could sell one of the buildings and keep the other for the ALC.

"I think we need to consider it," he said. "We will have a building empty at the end of the year."

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