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School district decision could lower residents' taxes

A pair of Farmington School Board decisions in coming weeks could lower taxes for district residents while also taking away some control over future tax bills.

The changes are possible because of legislation enacted this year in Minnesota that allows school districts to shift the burden of some of its tax levies and to change who decides whether the money is levied at all.

The result could be a reduction of $611,430 in the amount District 192 residents pay on the school portion of their tax bills.

Board members are expected to decide at their Aug. 26 meeting whether to opt out of something called location equity revenue. If they do not opt out, the district will shift $424 per pupil of their existing voter-approved levy to the state.

The result, finance director Carl Colmark said, would be a reduction in the taxes residents pay.

The other decision, likely to be made at a board meeting in September, will affect who decides whether the district collects what is currently voter-approved tax levy money. Currently, the district has a voter-approved property levy that will remain in place until 2018, Colmark said. The school board's decision in September could allow the district to change $300 per pupil of that levy from voter-approved to board approved.

If the district goes with both the location equity revenue and the $300 transfer it would wipe out the district's current levy. That means the district would not have to go back to voters to ask for the levy's renewal. And that, superintendent Jay Haugen said, could mean big savings in the time, money and aggravation that goes into running a levy campaign.

Eliminating the current voter-approved levy would also clear the way for the district to ask for a new levy of up to $1,600 per student should it feel such a levy is necessary.

Board members were generally supportive of both changes, although some raised concerns about taking some control away from voters. Colmark, though, said voters will still have some input on how they are taxed.

"I think by virtue of the fact school board members are reelected every few years the taxpayers do still have a say," he said.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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