Brainerd School Board members approved a roughly 3.8% preliminary levy increase.

The number is an estimate right now, Business Services Director Marci Lord told the board Monday, Sept. 28. Board members gave the go ahead to set the levy at the maximum allowed by state statute without voter approval.

She estimates that number to be about 3.84%, or an increase of $909,250.28, over 2020. The exact number will not be known until later this year, when the Minnesota Department of Education finalizes its reports and counties finalize their tax bases. The estimated levy at this point is about $24.6 million.

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. Projected enrollment for 2021-22 is 6,464 students, which translates to 7,087.60 adjusted 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 for taxes payable in 2021, but because the school district’s fiscal year starts July 1, the levy is based on district revenues from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022.

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Because levies are based on projected enrollment, some of the change is due to adjustments from past years.

“Two years down the road when we know the actual enrollment, the levy will come back and adjust what our actual enrollment was,” Lord said.

The district’s general fund is projected to decrease by 2.44% in this levy, largely due to a projected enrollment decrease. Enrollment for 2020-21 was estimated at 6,491.

Other increases come from the four main levy categories — general fund (42%), general debt service (46%), other post-employment benefit bonds (10%), and community education (2%).

The community education portion of the levy increased 3.13%. The difference is primarily due to adjustments in after-school child care programs.

The general debt service and other-post-employment benefit bonds increased 10.73% and 1.86%, respectively.

The district operates a total budget of about $108.6 million. The proposed local property tax levy accounts for about 22.7% of the budget. The remaining funds come from a variety of governmental sources, including funds for safe schools and state aid funds.

While the preliminary tax levy was set at a 3.48% increase over 2020, the overall budget will increase about 0.8%, as the property tax portion represents a small portion of the actual budget.

By approving the maximum amount Monday, board members allow for any changes in levy components that could occur before Oct. 1. The final levy amount reported to counties for certification will be used for property tax statements.

The board will have a public hearing Dec. 14 before certifying the final levy.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.