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Taxes won't increase with levy

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the concept of an Operating Levy, which is a school funding vehicle that utilizes property tax revenue to support school operations.

The Operating Levy is however, subject to the vote of the district's residents. As you know, an Operating Levy election will be placed before the voters of the Detroit Lakes School District on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

The district is asking district residents to approve an increase in the operating levy from its current $319 per pupil unit to a $457 per pupil unit. This increase would generate an additional $406,000 for the district for the next 10 years.

The nice part about that is that to the payoff of the Roosevelt building project, this increase in the Operating Levy, if approved, would not cost any more in school property taxes that what residents are currently paying. In fact, it appears that even with the passage of the operating levy, school taxes for 2010 would actually decrease.

There is a piece to this puzzle that could be confusing however. This week, district property owners will receive an official mailing from the school district announcing the upcoming election. We ask that district patrons read this notice carefully.

Throughout this mailing, the materials will talk about the cost of the operating levy. In other words, the mailing will outline the fact that there is a property tax increase in moving the current operating levy ($319 per pupil) to the proposed $457 per pupil.

However, the district was not permitted to point out in this mailing the fact that the Roosevelt project was paid off and thus coming off the tax rolls. Consequently, with the Roosevelt project paid off, this creates a zero tax impact where the proposed increase in the Operating Levy is concerned.

The same holds true for the sample ballot residents will receive in the mailing as well. The last sentence on the sample ballot (noted in bold print) indicates that "by voting yes on this ballot, you will be voting for a tax increase."

Again, while the operating levy would increase with voter approval, the ballot does not take into account the offset from the retirement of the Roosevelt Elementary building debt. As such, by law the ballot is also unable to address the fact that the approval of the operating levy would in fact have no increased impact on property tax payers. This same message will be present on the real ballot when voters go into the booth on Nov. 3.

We hope that district residents take the time to read the materials this week. Please be advised that the district will be hosting a public hearing on the ballot initiative soon. The date for the hearing will be forthcoming.

Please feel free to contact District Business Manager Ted Heisserer or myself at the district's business office if you have any questions regarding the Operating Levy Referendum.