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Willmar voters to decide school levy this fall

WILLMAR — Taxpayers in the Willmar School District will be asked to extend a $45.10-per-pupil operating levy that is about to expire.

The Willmar School Board voted to place the levy on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. It would last 10 years. The board also set a five-year board-approved operating levy of $176.26 per pupil.

The two levies equal the amount of an expiring operating levy that taxpayers approved 10 years ago.

The school district's operating levy of $201.51 per pupil approved in 2008 is about to expire. If it is allowed to expire, the district could lose more than $1 million a year in revenue.

Operating levies are a way public school districts can raise additional funding to pay for school operations. The state regulates most aspects of school funding, except for voter-approved local levies.

Operating levies help pay day-to-day expenses that are not covered by state aid. Nearly every school district in the state has at least one operating levy. Some have several that were approved in different years. Willmar has two operating levies.

Since the expiring levy was first approved, the Legislature has changed laws, allowing districts to approve a limited amount of property taxes for an operating levy without a referendum. Those levies must be renewed every five years.

The School Board voted Monday to levy the maximum amount it could under the state's formula for board-approved levies, but that is not enough to maintain the same level of funding.

The $45.10 levy question to be placed on the November ballot was proposed to keep funding at the same level. The ballot will read, "you are voting to extend an existing property tax referendum that is scheduled to expire."

Operating levies are applied to all properties in the school district at the same rate. For agricultural land, the tax is applied to a house, garage and one acre. Seasonal properties are not taxed on operating levies.

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