On Tuesday, Nov. 5, the Little Falls School District is asking that its residents go to the polls and vote to extend the current tax levy for another 10 years, beginning in 2015. This operating referendum, if passed, will ensure that the Little Falls schools will continue to operate as they have for the previous nine years.
In 2004, it took four elections to pass the current referendum authorization. Before it passed, the district had to cut staff and programs. It had to shut down the libraries and the media centers. Vocational classes were lost and the pool drained. School buildings were closed after hours and during the weekends. Those were the dark days for Little Falls Schools.
Little Falls Supt. Stephen Jones has been speaking with groups, councils and boards about the need to pass a renewal. His selling point has been that if it passes, property taxes will decrease. He is correct.
When the $2.5 million referendum passed in 2004, residents’ property tax burden increased by $1.78 million and the state picked up $628,920, or 25 percent of the total. A home worth approximately $150,000 paid about $305 more in taxes annually.
There have been several legislative changes to referendum money that will be effective in 2015. One is that it will give rural districts with 2,000 or more students an additional $212 per pupil, realizing that it takes more to do business in large rural schools.
That money is off the table if the referendum fails.
Another is the way the state calculates the amount of money per pupil it will give districts. The old authority was at $855.79 and the new is at $948.11, due to how it calculates the number of pupil units attending school.
The state will also pick up about 50 percent of the referendum levy instead of the previous 25 percent.
What does that mean for taxpayers in the Little Falls District?
It means that if the November referendum is asking for $2.5 million, the same as it did in 2004, taxpayers will be paying less for the school levy.
The $855.79 per student unit is now $948.11. But, new $212 location equity money is subtracted off the top because the state is picking that up. That leaves $736.11 per student unit for the levy.
Also, the state is now picking up about 50 percent of passed referendums instead of the previous 25 percent. If the Little Falls referendum passes, a $150,000 home that saw an increase of $305 in 2004’s property taxes will see a decrease of approximately $137.
When going to the polls, residents need to think about whether or not the Little Falls District has been a good steward of taxpayer dollars over the past nine years. Has it lived up to the current referendum expectations? Is it viewed as an organization that cares about its students and the community? Has it earned the community’s trust? We think it has.
By voting “Yes” on the ballot, residents will ensure the district will continue to educate its children as it has for the past nine years and property taxes will decrease.
Polling places, open from 7 a.m. – 8 p.m., include the Little Falls Community Middle School, Lincoln Elementary School and Dr. S.G. Knight Elementary School. Absentee ballots are available from the auditor/treasurer office in the Morrison County Government Center.