Osseo Area Schools preliminary levy up 3.2 percent

Much of the increase was beyond district’s control

The Osseo School Board raised its 2013 preliminary levy $2.2 million, or 3.2 percent, compared to 2012. The district can lower that amount before it sets a final levy later this year, but it cannot raise the amount.

The board certified the preliminary levy at the maximum allowed level of $73,356,331. In 2012 the levy was $71,148,240. The Minnesota Department of Education calculates allowed levels for each school district.

“Our goal is to keep the proposed tax levy as flat as possible,” Assistant Supt. Kim Riesgraf told the school board. “However, levies will vary from year to year.”

The calculations don’t include revenue from the proposed operating or technology levies on the ballot in November. If voters approve those levies, the Minnesota Department of Education will recalculate the levy limits to include that revenue.

General fund levies drove the increase in the overall levy this year.

The biggest change in the general fund levies came from adjustments due to the decertification of a Tax Increment Financing district two years ago. A TIF district is a tool used by cities to encourage development, but it affects the tax base of other taxing entities.

When the TIF district was decertified, or eliminated, the effect on the school district was delayed. As a result, the school district received about $1.4 million more in 2011 than it was supposed to get following the decertification. To compensate, it had to adjust the 2012 levy by collecting $1.4 million less. There is no such adjustment needed in the 2013 levy. That adds $1.4 million to the 2013 levy compared to 2012. But the impact of the adjustments is neutral over the course of the past three years.

The school board has no control over TIF districts.

Other major increases came from a retiree health benefits levy and a health and safety levy to cover asbestos abatements and other issues. A voter-approved levy increased because inflation was built into the levy when it was approved. Tax abatements also contributed to the increased levy. The school district has no control over abatements.

The preliminary levy for the community service fund is about $1,8 million. It increased approximately $19,000.

The preliminary debt serviced levy decreased about $168,000 to approximately $20.6 million. The law requires districts to levy the maximum amount in this category.

The school board unanimously approved the preliminary levy Sept. 18.