The Brainerd School Board set its 2020 tax levy at just under $23.7 million, a 1.54% increase over 2019 that will have little tax impact for property owners.
The final number is slightly lower than the 1.61% increase the board adopted in September as the preliminary levy, which was set at the maximum amount allowed by state statute.
The final levy is an increase of $358,261 over 2019, board members heard during a meeting Monday, Dec. 9.
“School districts are kind of unique,” Marci Lord, director of business services, said. “Counties and cities right now are building their levies and building their budgets for next year, whereas we are approving a levy that we have not built a budget for yet.”
School districts determine how much revenue a local tax levy will generate first, and then build a budget around that levy.
The levy is based on calculations completed by the Minnesota Department of Education, which administers the funding formulas governed by state statutes. The state formula for revenue is based on pupil units, which is a weighted enrollment measure. The 2019 levy is based on a projected 2020-21 enrollment of 6,663 students, which translates to 7,281.72 pupil units. To calculate the pupil units, students in kindergarten through sixth grade are weighted at 1.0, while students in seventh through 12th grades are weighted at 1.2. Districts can levy up to $724 per pupil unit.
The levy is broken up into four categories — general fund, community education, general debt service and other post-employment benefit debt service.
Of the 2020 levy — set at $23,688,565 — about 44% goes to the general fund, 43.3% to general debt service, 10.4% to post-employment benefit debt service and 2.2% to community education.
The general fund portion of the levy will increase about 10.47% from 2019 to 2020, with an increase in long-term facilities maintenance funds due to rising building and land lease costs with all the ongoing and upcoming construction projects throughout the district.
The other three categories will decrease. In September, Lord said the decrease in community education funding was because the district levied an excess of about $29,000 in 2017 for community ed.
“When we look at actuals, if we had levied more than what the actuals were, an adjustment will flow through on our later levies,” she explained at the time. “So that’s why there’s a significant decrease in our community ed this year.”
The district operates a budget of about $109.5 million. The local property tax levy accounts for about 21.6% of the budget. The remaining funds come from a variety of governmental sources, including funds for safe schools and state aid funds. Because the property tax levy accounts for less than a quarter of the district’s budget, the overall budget will only increase about 0.3%.
The school board hosted a truth in taxation hearing after Lord’s budget presentation Monday, but no residents spoke.