Little Falls seeks to extend its operating referendum

By Tina SnellStaff Writer

The Little Falls School Board voted Monday to extend the district’s operating levy by putting a referendum to a vote by the people in the district. It will be on the November ballot.

The approved resolution stated it is necessary and expedient for the district to renew the existing referendum revenue authorization of $948.11 per adjusted pupil unit which is scheduled to expire after taxes payable in 2014. This additional revenue will be used to finance school operations and will be applicable for 10 years.

Most school districts receive revenue through local property tax levies and state aid. An operating referendum is an election which allows districts to generate additional general education revenue, to be used for any operating or capital expenses.

Gary Olson from Ehlers, a financial advisory company, calculated that a home with an estimated market value of $100,000 would see a 21.7 percent drop in the school district voter-approved levy if the referendum passes. A home with an estimated value of $250,000 would see a 21.5 percent drop.

The referendum, if passed, would ensure the district receives the same $2.5 million it has for the past 10 years.

The ballot will be submitted to the voters of the Little Falls School District during a special election held Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Little Falls Supt. Stephen Jones said that, due to action by the 2013 Minnesota Legislature, operating levies will see a greater amount of support from the state to fund operating referendums.

“The state has created a new funding source called Location Equity Revenue which recognizes that larger rural districts have higher operating expenses (than urban ones),” said Jones. “The Legislature is reducing approved operating referendums in those districts by $212 per pupil unit, which will reduce the tax burden on levied residents.”

The state will contribute a higher rate (65 percent) than they have in the past, reducing the amount district residents will pay (35 percent), if the referendum passes.

Today, nearly 90 percent of school districts in Minnesota receive excess funds from passed referendums as compared to 65 percent in the early 1990s.

Olson said the average referendum passed in 1993 was $332 per pupil and today it’s projected to be $920 per pupil.

“The district could have asked for more levy money and kept the tax burden at the same level, but chose to reduce the local taxes and keep the levy at the current $2.5 million,” said Jones.

Little Falls School Board briefs 

Other business conducted by the Little Falls School Board Monday night included:

• Approving the Little Falls student handbooks for the 2013-14 school year;

• Set the Truth and Taxation meeting for Monday, Dec. 16, at the Morrison County Government Center; and

• Accepted donations from the Flyer Athletic Boosters ($1,730.87) for the youth recreation program; from anonymous donors ($10, $25 and $10) for the Lincoln Elementary summer camp program; from Minnesota Power ($1,000) for the Day of Caring; and from the Little Falls Township ($3,800) for the youth recreation program.

The next School Board meeting will be held at the Morrison County Government Center Monday, Sept. 16, beginning at 5 p.m.