Moorhead Area Public Schools’ property tax levy will decrease by 1.78 percent for 2015, according to Assistant Superintendent Brandon Lunak. Most of the decrease is because the district refinanced a portion of its long-term debt in January to save approximately $3.8 million in interest payments over seven years.
Following a presentation by Lunak at the Dec. 15 School Board meeting, board members approved a resolution to certify the district’s 2014 Payable 2015 Property Tax Levy, which provides revenue for the 2015-16 school year. The total levy amount is $13.3 million, which is a decrease of $237,029 or 1.78 percent from the 2014 tax levy.
Over the last three years, Moorhead Area Public Schools has decreased its levy by more than $1 million. The district’s property tax levy decreased by 2.5 percent ($350,493) for 2013. For 2014, the district’s property tax levy decreased by 3.1 percent ($435,536).
Lunak noted that the district has reduced the levy while adhering to the five priority areas outlined for the 2010 operating levy referendum. The operating levy has allowed the district to meet the first priority area of providing a source of stable revenue and avoiding further reductions. Additionally, the district continues to address the other four operating levy priority areas: funding classroom teachers and world language teachers, implementing all-day kindergarten and updating technology.
Most of the change in the levy amount is because of the refunding of the district’s debt, which decreased the debt service levy. Other reductions were from decreases related to adjustments for the prior year, community service, and the operating referendum levy, which was offset by an increase in state aid. Increases were seen in other local levies such as the health and safety levy to cover qualifying capital projects, and the lease levy, which is being used to fund part of the classroom additions at Robert Asp Elementary and Probstfield Center for Education.
Factors that affect whether a tax bill for an individual property increases or decreases include changes to a property’s value, changes to the total value of all property in the district, and increases or decreases in levy amounts caused by changes in state funding formulas, local needs and costs, voter-approved referendums and other factors. Lunak noted that the district does not have any control over individual property and district property values being adjusted.
Included in this year’s hearing was information about the economic development property tax abatement that the City of Moorhead, Clay County and Moorhead Area Public Schools approved in September 2012. The district’s estimated abatement for the 2014 assessment is $45,414.14 for the 98 properties (88 new and 10 remodeled) that qualified for the abatement. The actual amount will be included in next year’s levy.
As a normal course of business, the board approved the maximum for the preliminary levy in September. Certifying the maximum for the preliminary levy allowed the district to make adjustments before the final levy was certified on Dec. 15.
A revised budget for fiscal year 2015 will be brought to the board in January. Next year’s budget will be adopted in June 2015.