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School Board okays 12 percent mill levy increase

Posted 9/16/14 (Tue)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

The McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 approved a 12 percent mill increase for school district patrons as it finalized a $14.8 million budget during its regular meeting on Monday, Sept. 8.
According to Steve Holen, district superintendent, the board was forced to raise its mill levy in order to meet the state’s requirement that school districts have a minimum mill levy of 60 mills.
“With the mill levy increase, our district’s mill levy for our general fund will be 56.83 mills,” states Holen. “By going to 12 percent, we will not lose $226,000 in state foundation aid payments because our mill levy was too low.”
For the 2014-15 school year, the school district will be levying a total of 87.36 mills compared to 81.29 mills last year. According to Holen, each mill will generate approximately $71,000 for the school district.
“The increase in property values has dramatically changed in the past year due to new construction,” stated Holen. “Last year, the district’s taxable valuation was $53.9 million, while this year that valuation increased to $71.5 million.”
According to Holen, one of the major reasons for the increase in the mill levy is to pay for the construction of the new high school, which is set to open in December of 2015.
“We have to levy for the full bond payments for the new high school now,” stated Holen.
During the public forums on the new school, Holen noted that the school patrons were informed that  the school would need 20.87 mills to generate the funds needed for the $27 million bond levy. However, because of the increased taxable valuation of property within the school district, the board only had to levy 17.37 to finance the school.
For the 2014-15, the district is looking at a $425,774 deficit budget, with anticipated revenues of $16,468,165 and budgeted expenditures of $16,893,940.
“When it comes to our regular school budget, the biggest question that we have is how much money we will get from the state in Rapid Enrollment Grant funds,” stated Holen.
Because of the district’s surge in enrollment, McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 is entitled to receive an additional $911,000 in state aid this school year. But Holen is skeptical that the district will receive that full amount.
“We have conservatively budgeted for $500,000 in those funds this year,” stated Holen. “But, we won’t know the actual amount of money that we will receive in Rapid Enrollment funds until the state determines how many school districts will quality for the additional funding.” According to Holen, the state has $8.5 million in Rapid Enrollment Grant funds for the 2014-15 school year.
A lion’s share of this year’s school budget will go toward professional and administrative staff with about 75 percent of the budget going toward salary.
“We have added 13½ new positions this year,” stated Holen. “That brings our total staff to 81 teachers and five administrators.”