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Brainerd Public Schools: Tax abatement to fund district parking projects

Marci Lord, Brainerd School District director of business services, and Brandon Kellerman, of ICS Consulting, discuss tax abatement with school board members during the board's meeting Monday, March 18, at the Washington Educational Services Building. Greg Crowe, of Ehlers, also spoke Monday about the tax abatement issue. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

Continuing with plans to move building projects forward in the Brainerd School District, the board of education approved a tax abatement program Monday, March 18, to help finance district parking lots and drop-off/pick-up areas at school facilities.

The abatement applies to 24 district properties, but it doesn't work like a city economic development tax abatement when property taxes are waived, Greg Crowe of Ehlers, explained after Monday's meeting. These properties are still paying their taxes in full.

However, an additional sum of money equal to the school district portion of these properties' taxes—amounting to about $460,000 per year—is tacked on to the district's levy and spread across all school district taxpayers, which factors in the $7 a year tax increase discussed before last year's referendum.

"Even the parcels that are listed on the (abatement) list, they're still technically going to pay what they would otherwise," Crowe said. "But the extra amount, the $460,000 gets spread across all taxpayers based on their share of the tax base."

The extra money will be used to fund tax abatement bonds, which will be issued to finance parking and drop-off modifications at Forestview Middle School; Harrison, Riverside, Lowell and Garfield elementary schools; the new elementary school in Baxter; Brainerd High School; the Washington Educational Services Building; and the new early childhood center in Baxter. They will also fund parking modifications at Nisswa Elementary School, the Brainerd High School South Campus and the Brainerd Learning Center.

"The easiest way to understand it is that by adopting a tax abatement, the (Minnesota) Department of Education allows the school district to put a levy onto taxpayers equal to the principal and interest on the bonds," Crowe said. "It is just the authority to add the debt service to the school district's total levy so that they collect enough to make those annual payments on those bonds."

The properties within the Brainerd School District to be abated from 2020-34 are:

• Fleet Farm GasMart, 14086 Dellwood Drive.

• Mills Auto Xtreme, 14858 Dellwood Drive.

• Menards, 15236 Dellwood Drive.

• Body Works, 14742 Dellwood Drive.

• Target, 14546 Dellwood Drive.

• Northern Lakes Senior Living, 8186 Excelsior Road.

• Kohl's, 7565 Excelsior Road.

• Cub Foods, 14133 Edgewood Drive.

• Walmart, 7295 Glory Road.

• Edgewood Brainerd Senior Living, 14890 Beaver Dam Road.

• Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Medical Center, 2024 S. Sixth St.

• Nisswa LLC, 5067 Nisswa Ave.

• Clow Stamping Company, 23103 County Highway 3.

• US Hotels, 6963 Lake Forest Road.

• Brainerd International Raceway, 5523 Birchdale Road.

• Home Depot, 7207 Foley Road.

• Lindar Corp., 7789 Hastings Road.

• Bang Printing Fulfillment, 217 Etak Drive.

• Three Bears Waterpark, 15739 Audubon Way.

• Two properties owned by BNSF Railway with no address listed.

• A property owned by Costco with no address listed.

• A property owned by Crosby Cardiovascular Services with no address listed.

• A property owned by Northern States Power Co. with no address listed.

Crow Wing County officials suggested those properties, Crowe explained, as they have the highest value of district properties without current abatements and not located in tax increment financing districts.

No one spoke during a public hearing on the issue Monday.

Theresa Bourke

I started at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and the Brainerd School District. I follow city and school board officials as they make important decisions for residents and students and decide how to spend taxpayer dollars. I look for feature story ideas among those I meet and enjoy, more than anything, helping individuals tell their stories and show what makes them unique.

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