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LP-A taxes lower than expected

The Lake Park-Audubon School Board certified a final figure of over $2.3 million for the 2010, payable 2011 district property tax levy at its Monday night meeting in Lake Park.

As expected, the $21.1 million building bond referendum approved by voters in May had a marked effect on the tax levy. According to LP-A Superintendent Dale Hogie, the total figure of $2,345,926 reflected a debt service levy of $1,375,040 for the bond payments.

Without that debt service amount, the actual levy increase over last year's figure of $957,719 would have been just a little above $13,000. With the debt service included, the total levy increase was set at $1,388,208, Hogie said.

The actual tax impact, however, may not be as large as anticipated for some district residents. Hogie reported at Monday's meeting that initial projections from Ehlers & Associates on the estimated tax impact for a $100,000 home were somewhat higher than the figures released by Becker County late last month.

Ehlers, the school district's financial advisors, projected that LP-A school taxes payable on a $100,000 home would increase by $146 for next year, putting the total school tax at $328 as a result of the building bond referendum.

The tax estimate documents released by Becker County in November, however, showed the projected school tax on a $100,000 home to be $272 -- or about $56 less than Ehlers' earlier projections.

Also at Monday's meeting, the board discussed a letter that had been submitted by former LP-A instructor Lewy Ronken to the board and administration of the district.

In that letter, Ronken expressed his concerns about the lack of "hands-on" vocational study opportunities offered by the district since the elimination of the vocational agriculture program a year ago.

"I think that letter bothered all of us," said Board Chair Vicky Grondahl. "That decision (to eliminate the vo-ag program) was not reached lightly.

Board member Mike McIntire noted that the heart of the problem lies in the fact that the number of "core" classes required for each student is increasing, resulting in fewer opportunities to take elective classes.

"I would love to see us have a lot more 'hands-on' classes," board member Bryan Anderson said.

But each elective class takes "a substantial amount of money" to offer, while the number of potential students for each of those classes isn't high enough to justify adding it -- in part because "kids don't have the opportunities for electives that they used to," he added.

For instance, a student taking band or choir on top of his or her core requirements may have only one hour available for an elective class each day, Anderson said.

Board member Jeff Swetland said there was a concern that the district might lose students to neighboring schools, where more vocational education opportunities exist.

Board member Rick Ellsworth, meanwhile, noted that while it might be nice to bring back the vo-ag program, "Where are the funds going to come from to add anything?"

With the state's current budget woes, he continued, "don't be expecting any more money from the state anytime soon."

"I think what you need to focus on is keeping what you've got," said Ellsworth, noting that he expects state aid to the district to decrease, rather than increase in the next few years.

Ellsworth, who was attending his last meeting as a board member, said that his advice to the board would be to "do the best with what you have, while you have it."

At the end of the meeting Grondahl and Hogie presented Ellsworth with a plaque commemorating his years of service to the board.

"Thanks -- it means a lot, it really does," said Ellsworth.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454