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Levy's impact on agriculture, commercial properties spelled out

This article, written by School Superintendent Tamara Uselman, appeared on the opinion page in the Thursday, October 9, 2008 edition of the Perham Enterprise Bulletin.


Nothing short of "naked" catches attention like the word "levy". So I will attempt to speak the naked truth about our school levy coming to voters in November.

Last week, the word "levy" caught the attention of our farmers - and that is saying something because it is harvest time and they are working 'round the clock. The question asked by farmers was a good one. "Will the proposed levy increase taxes on the entire farm? On all the acreage?"

The answer is, "No. Subject to the levy are the house, garage, and one acre only. Neither the rest of the buildings nor acreage beyond the one acre is taxed for this school levy."

Another issue concerned taxpayers on fixed incomes who purchased a home that has increased in value while their incomes did not increase. The question was, "Is there any way these folks can support a school levy without losing the house?"

The answer is, "Yes, I think so, though each property owner answers that question for him or herself." There are two programs that I have heard about that may assist homeowners whose property taxes have escalated. Homeowners should research these programs and / or seek advice from a professional tax person. The Minnesota Revenue website reports the following: "As a homeowner, you may be eligible for one or both of the following refunds if you owned and lived in your home on January 2, 2008.

Regular property tax refund. Your total household income for 2007 must be less than $93,480 (for 2006, less than $91,120). The maximum refund is $1,750.

Special property tax refund. Your net property tax on your homestead must have increased by more than 12 percent from 2007 to 2008, and the increase must be at least $100. There is no income limit for the special property tax refund. The maximum refund is $1,000."

(Minnesota Department of Revenue on the Internet. 7 October, 2008.

I hope these two programs provide tax relief for those who need it the most. For forms and specific information, please visit

The third most frequently asked question is, "How is commercial property impacted by a school levy?" Commercial properties pay the same rate as homesteaded properties pay: on the value of the structure and the lot the building is on, not on the overall value of the business itself.

"What will the levy allow?" one might ask. This levy is for maintenance only. It will allow us to keep the programs we currently have in place. It will not allow us to add anything unless something else is dropped. Even with a levy, we anticipate reductions. Whenever enrollment declines, we make reductions in response. The School Board has made budget reductions of over two million in the last four years. Part of those reductions are due to declining enrollment whereas part are due to the fact that the student aid received today is $377 less than it was in 2003 when figuring in inflation (Ehlers & Associates, Inc).

In closing, it is recognized that these are tough economic times in which to ask the levy question. I don't know if there is ever a great time to seek a levy. On the other hand, the expected reductions to programs and services demand that the public have a say in the quality and viability of its community's schools. That's the naked truth of the matter.