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School Board approves prelim levy, expects decrease before December

The board will have a public hearing in December before approving the final levy for the 2023-24 school year.

Washington Educational Services Building
Washington Educational Services Building in Brainerd.
Dispatch file photo
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BRAINERD — The preliminary 2023 Brainerd Public Schools tax levy is higher than this year, but the final number and the tax impact is not yet known.

School Board members approved the highest levy allowable, which amounts to an 8.4% increase in the levy over 2022, during their meeting Monday, Sept. 12, knowing the final amount in December would be lower.

“The idea is to set it at the maximum tonight to give us maximum flexibility in case we need it for some unforeseen reason,” board member Kevin Boyles clarified before the vote. “But there’s every probability that because of the debt servicing restructure that we can do, once we have better numbers to work from for those that will come in later between now and December, we have the ability to take that number down.”

In fact, the number has already decreased since Monday’s meeting.

Marci Lord, director of business services, said by phone Thursday, Sept. 15, the Minnesota Department of Education puts out almost daily levy updates with corrections for errors and other adjustments. The district’s 8.4% increase had already gone down as of Thursday, she said.

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The primary reason for the increase is debt services, as the board just approved Monday the sale of more general obligation building bonds related to the 2018 voter-approved referendum.

“We just approved a resolution to issue that additional debt, and we can send a request in to MDE (Minnesota Department of Education), and they will actually basically pre-load our debt schedule,” Lord said. “So they’re adding that debt, as well as the previous issuances we’ve done the last couple years that are related to Blueprint 181 are also on there.”

After issuing the original bonds in 2018, the district learned of a change in statute, essentially allowing more bonds to be issued while keeping the same value, meaning the bonds board members approved this week do not have any additional impact on taxpayers beyond the funds approved in the referendum.

Behind the numbers

The 8.4% increase represents a levy of about $26.8 million, which is 23.2% of the budget for the 2022-23 school year. The levy is payable in 2023 and will go toward the 2023-24 school year.

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The levy is based on an estimated enrollment for the 2023-24 school year of 6,494 adjusted pupil units, which translates to 5,929 average daily membership, a calculation used by the state to determine funding amounts.

Adjusted pupil units are calculated based on student attendance and weighted based on grade level. Students in seventh through 12th grades are weighted as 1.2, while younger students are weighted as 1. Average daily members equates to the total number of students’ attendance days divided by the number of school days in a year.

Lord said she will update the enrollment projection if need be based on actual student counts on Oct. 1.

The district’s levy is broken up into three main categories:

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  • General fund, 35% of the levy, down 3.05% in 2023.
  • Community service fund, 2% of levy, up 0.7% in 2023.
  • General debt service fund, 63% of levy, up 40.29% in 2023 because of debt payments.

Counties have not yet finalized market value and tax base numbers, meaning the tax impact of the levy increase is not yet known.
Counties will mail out proposed tax statements in mid-November, and the School Board will host a public hearing at its December meeting before approving the final levy, which can be lower but not higher than the preliminary levy.

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

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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