Perham-With the total Perham-Dent School District levy decreasing by nearly 20 percent after 2017, district officials are hoping voters will find it easier to approve a building referendum on Nov. 24.

Levies typically comprise about 18 percent of the school district’s budget, or $3.2 million. The retired teachers pensions levy will end in 2016, and a capital projects levy, totaling 2.2 million, which included some technology upgrades, along with repairs of roofs, parking lots and heating systems, expires in 2017.  

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With the expiring levies, the district’s building project referendum to repurpose space at the middle school and create space for high school students, may become less of a tax burden for district voters.

School referendum planners hope that reducing the overall building plan by about $14 million will make it more palatable to voters.

In meetings held over the summer, it was decided to take off more than $7 million in deferred maintenance, and to ask voters to decide on a new $6.2 million auditorium separate from the building plan, taking the total from $58.3 million to $45.27 million, and giving voters more control in the decision.

District planners were able to take off the deferred maintenance because the Minnesota legislature increased per pupil revenue for districts like Perham, allowing the district to set aside the funds through its budget planning process.

About $3 million in tax money is assessed to district residents as part of Perham-Dent’s overall $17.5 million budget. The difference comes from the state and other funding sources. Historically over the past few years, levies have increased, but this year and next that levy burden is decreasing, setting the stage for a new referendum, he said.

“The school board intentionally chose this time to ask voters for a (building project) because the debt is falling off,” said Mitch Anderson. “We are taxing them less in one area to lessen the burden. While there will be an increase in their taxes (with a positive vote), there is a decrease taking effect.”