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NY Mills School District plans for new levy

The New York Mills School District is in the early stages of planning for an operating referendum to be voted on this fall.

The district held a public meeting June 17 to inform the community about the upcoming vote. At the regular June meeting of the school board June 28, officials asked for input from community members regarding the vote.

"We really truly need your input," said board member Rachel Grieger at the June 28 meeting.

The New York Mills Public School currently has a $200 per pupil referendum that will expire at the end of the 2010-11 school year.

"Referendums have become a very important component of school funding over recent years in the state of Minnesota and we want to make sure that all questions or comments are heard and that good, accurate information is available to the community," said Superintendent Todd Cameron. "Nearly $500,000 has been slashed from the district's operating budget over the past few years and the question of needing a referendum is a must to continue our strong tradition of quality programs and services for students, parents, and the community," Cameron said.

Schools are required by Minnesota law to hold referendum votes during general election years.

Referendums provide funding to the general operating fund to cover everything such as fuel, insurance, electricity, and staff salaries in contrast to bonds, which fund buildings and facilities,.

"We're in the people business," said Cameron. "80 percent of our budget is salaries."

The current levy, $200 per pupil, provides $140,000 per year in revenue based on market values of property.

Under the current levy, a taxable market value of a property valued at $100,000 is assessed $42 per year for the school district.

Many owners of homestead properties would qualify for a refund based on their income and total property taxes under a new levy. This will decrease the net effect of the referendum levy for many property owners.

Agricultural property will pay taxes for a proposed referendum based only on the value of the house, garage and one acre of land. Seasonal recreation residential property such as cabins will pay no taxes for a proposed referendum.

A net change of $100 per pupil for a total of $300 would reflect an increase of $21 per year based on the value of a $100,000 property. An increase to $400 per pupil (double the current levy) would be an increase of $42 for the same valued property.

The district, based on input from the community, needs to decide how much to ask voters for by August 20.

The preliminary budget for next year's operating costs has a deficit of about $200,000.

"It's doesn't leave us with a lot of cushion because it leaves us with about $100,000 next year in our general fund. When you are looking at close to $6 million, $100,000 is still a lot of money, but compared to $6 million, it's a fairly small amount when you are talking that big of a number," Cameron said. "When the state is looking at a $2 billion gap, we pretty much know that in the next four years there is no new money coming to schools in the state of Minnesota."

Further public meetings will be held to discuss the various options with NY Mills voters. Community members are currently forming a committee with the hopes of disseminating information properly to the public in regards to how much of an increase to request from voters.

Board approves sale of capita facilities bonds

In other business, the NY Mills School Board has approved the sale of capital facilities bonds to make $18,000 worth of repairs to the school's roof, $81,000 in stucco repairs and $95,000 in parking lot work. The total bond will have a 7-year payback date.

Board discusses yearly activity passes

Board member Tim Kupfer brought up concerns he has heard from parents regarding the potential sale of season or yearly activity passes. Other districts offer such passes. NY Mills does not.

After discussion, the board decided to keep the option open in the future but decided now is not the right time to enact a new policy due to budget projections.