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Brainerd Public Schools: Board sets preliminary levy at maximum amount

Marci Lord, Brainerd School District director of business services, discusses the preliminary 2019 levy with school board members during their Monday, Sept. 24, meeting at the Washington Educational Services Building. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

A nearly 20 percent levy increase could be in the cards for the Brainerd School District.

School board members, during their Monday, Sept. 24 board meeting, set the 2019 preliminary levy at the maximum amount allowed by state statute, per administrative recommendation. Right now, that number stands at 19.86 percent, or about $3.9 million higher than 2018.

Marci Lord, director of business services, explained how that figure could fluctuate until Oct. 1, when final property tax statement numbers will be reported to the counties.

The district's bonding referendum accounts for much of that levy increase, Lord said, as $143 million worth of building bonds were issued in June.

"And then there is a refund savings in there as well, so it brought it down a little bit to hit that tax mark that we had presented to the voters of $7.28 for every $152,600 home. And we are right there with $7.27," Lord said. "I've been working with (district financial adviser) Ehlers, going back and forth making sure that we hit that target that we had proposed."

The 2019 levy is based on a projected 2019-20 enrollment of 6,538 students and is made up primarily of the district's general fund (44 percent) and general debt services (43 percent). In contrast, last year's levy was 52 percent general fund and nearly 32 percent debt services.

But, again, Lord said, because of the bonds, the debt services portion is becoming much higher.

The district operates on a total combined fund revenue budget of about $99.7 million, and the proposed local property tax levy accounts for about 23 percent of that, or $23.4 million.

The county will mail out property tax statements to all property owners in mid-November, and

the board will approve a final levy in December, which can be decreased—but not increased—from the preliminary levy.

If approved at a 19.86 percent increase, the levy will stand at $23,418,330, making the average levy increase over the last five years 7.36 percent.