Property taxes will go up in Turner district

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008
— Changes in revenues and uncertain construction costs will drive up property taxes in the Turner School District this year.

District spending will increase 4.3 percent. But state aid will be less than expected, so the district's tax levy will increase 15 percent to make up the difference.

The school board Monday night unanimously approved a $3.6 million levy for the 2008-09 school year. That's up from $3.14 million last year.

That will leave district property owners paying taxes of $9.89 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. That's an increase of 77 cents, or 8.4 percent, over last year's tax rate.

The district's revenue cap grew by 8 percent, but state aid grew by less than 2 percent, Business Administrator Brad Boll said. Aid is down in part because property values in the district increased by less than they have in seven years, District Administrator Dennis McCarthy said.

Still, the district is growing, he said.

"It doesn't change the fact that our (student) numbers are up," McCarthy said. "We have to have a way to educate kids. The way our conference breaks down, we have the largest teacher-to-student ratios. We're sitting with large classroom sizes, and we can't do that any more."

Board member Rodney Jordan, who was elected to his first term in April, was the only board member to speak against the proposed levy. He asked if it were necessary to tax as much as the state allows.

"I think there are areas where this budget could be scrubbed a little," Jordan said.

McCarthy told Jordan the only room for flexibility in the budget is in construction costs. It would be hasty to cut those costs until they've been finalized, he said.

The district has finished one of two construction phases approved by voters in April. The district saved money by upgrading the old middle/high school rather than building a new school. But working on a school that's in service crams work into summer vacations and spreads it out over two years, Boll said.

That makes it harder to predict costs and is another reason for the increase in property taxes, Boll said.

The district has not yet put the second phase of the project out to bid, Boll said. Until the bids come back, it will be hard to know exactly how much the project will cost, he said.

Voters approved only $6.1 million in referendum. So if the work costs more than that, the district could have to scrap some plans or squeeze extra money out of the operating budget to make up for it, Boll said.

"Until we get bids on (the second phase) of the project, we have no idea whether we're over budget or under budget," Boll said.

After reviewing the first phase of construction, McCarthy thinks next summer's work will likely go over budget.

"I don't know that we're going to have enough, knowing what we've done in the first phase where the only part that came in lower was the auditorium," McCarthy said.

In many cases, workers found the buildings to be in worse shape than expected once they started tearing into ceilings and walls, McCarthy said.

Boll said the district so far has spent roughly $1.2 million on construction. The construction and related loans has a 7-cent impact on the tax rate, McCarthy said.

Board President Norm Jacobs told Jordan and other board members that specific concerns about the budget could be brought up at a finance committee meeting.

Another reason for the budget increase is the addition of 4-year-old kindergarten and staff in other grade levels, McCarthy said.


Operating budget

This year: $13.52 million

Last year: $12.96 million

Increase: 4.3%

Tax levy

This year: $3.14 million

Last year: $3.60 million

Increase: 14.7%

Tax rate

(Per $1,000 of assessed valuation)

This year: $9.89

Last year: $9.12

Increase: 8.44%

Note: Percent changes calculated on whole numbers.

Last updated: 10:37 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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