District 281 board approves 2013-2014 tax levy

The District 281 School Board unanimously approved its final tax levy for the 2013-2014 school year during a Dec. 3 board meeting.

The $52.7 million levy is nearly $1.1 million less than the levy passed for the 2012-2013 school year. As a result, most taxpayers will be paying 3-4 percent less in school taxes compared to last year. Executive Director of Business Services Jeff Priess said the bulk of the difference comes from a reduction in an annual Alternative Facilities levy that was replaced by the sale of bonds at what Priess called “very low interest rates.”

The 2013-2014 levy also:

• Increases the operating referendum amount per resident pupil by $29.14 to $1,590 (providing nearly $22.9 million in revenue).

• Reduces Alternative Facilities (Pay-As-You-Go) levy by $395,425.

Unlike cities, which pass both levies and budgets this time of year, school districts pass a levy only, as a school budget cycle runs June through the following July.

According to information presented during the meeting, more than 76 percent of the estimated $189.1 million of 2013 expenditures will go towards the general fund, with 10 percent going to service debt, 7 percent going to building construction, 4 percent to community services and 3 percent going towards nutrition.

The district is forecasting $184.1 million in revenue for 2013, with 56 percent of that coming from state revenue. Property taxes bring in 29 percent of the revenue total, and “other local revenue” accounts for 9 percent. The federal government provides 5 percent, and school meal sales general 1 percent.

When reached for comment about the levy passage, Superintendent Aldo Siccoli said he was “very happy that our families and community members can realize some savings during tough economic times.”

During its Dec. 3 business meeting (which followed the Truth-in-Taxation hearing), the District 281 School Board:

• Unanimously approved results from a comprehensive annual financial report for the year ending June 30. The district’s finance department prepared it, and an opinion was rendered by an outside auditor.

“I think this year went really well,” Priess said. “I think we were done a month earlier than in the past.”

Bill Lauer, an auditor with Malloy, Montague, Karnowski, Radosevich and Co., was present to provide his firm’s opinion of the district’s financial health.

“As far as results, I’m happy to say we were able to give you a clean opinion without exceptions,” he said. “We found no weaknesses noted in internal control.”

A clean audit is the highest opinion achievable. The report will be submitted to the national Association of School Business Officials for the Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting.

• Unanimously dopted a resolution calling the government to amend the Budget Control Act of 2011. According to the district, federal education programs could face more than an 8 percent budget cut next year unless Congress intervenes. Nationwide, sequestration would cut education funding by more than $4 billion, and would affect the Robbinsdale Area Schools school district’s budget by more than $500,000.

“The school board of Robbinsdale Area Schools urges Congress and the Administration to amend the Budget Control Act to mitigate the drastic cuts to education that would affect our students and communities, and to protect education as an investment critical to economic stability and American competitiveness,” the end of the resolution read.

The district says that an 8.2 percent cut in federal funding would mean larger class sizes, fewer course offerings, less access to intervention programs, summer school and after school programs, less extracurricular activities and staff cuts.

The resolution will be sent to Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, as well as Representatives Erik Paulsen and Keith Ellison to seek support.