At last week’s meeting of the ISD 318 School Board, the district’s truth in taxation meeting was first on the agenda.
District Business Manager Pat Goggin opened the presentation by informing the audience that the District could be raising the levy by more than 10 percent. Last year’s levy was $10,384,643.85 and this year’s proposed levy is $11,449,111.08, a difference of over $1 million.
Goggin said that the figure represented the maximum that the District could levy for 2017/2018, adding; “It can be less but that’s up to the school board and other factors that might play into this before you get your statements next spring.”
Goggin said that a good deal of the increase could be attributed to maintaining the district’s buildings. The state directs the District to levy for building maintenance. Goggin said that this is a relatively new directive and it is driven by student population and age of the district’s facilities.
Last year, the district could have levied for $800,000 dollars to maintain its buildings but opted to levy for $400,000 and spend down reserves to meet any gap. The District wound up spending nearly $2 million on facility maintenance last year. This year, said Goggin, the district is levying the maximum that it can for building maintenance, $1.2 million dollars.
Goggin said that the 10.25 percent increase in the levy could be mitigated somewhat by the refinancing of some bonds in the coming week. The district is currently paying about 5.25 percent interest on those bonds. Officials hope to see a reduction of 2.5-3 percent in interest as a result of the resale. “If we save 3%, this number (10.25% increase in the levy) immediately becomes a 7.25% increase,” he said.
Goggin moved on to discuss what taxpayers will see on their tax statements. He said that one of the lines on tax statements is reserved for voter-approved taxes. He said that everybody should see a large reduction on the voter-approved line. “The only part of the levy that ISD has are the bonds on the middle school. In the 2017/2018 year, we will make our last payment on those bonds and that building will be paid off.”
The district’s business manager did add that the savings in voter-approved taxes would be offset by increases in some non-voter-approved bonds.
Goggin concluded his remarks with a few comments about factors that could change the levy. He said the levy could be adjusted by altering general residential market value taxes - taxes collected from taxpayers and businesses in the district. These taxes represent about one-third of the levy. Goggin said that a second way might be to under-levy and not put as much into long-term building maintenance. The final option cited by Goggin was to restructure bond debt. The School Board will vote on the final levy at their Dec. 19 meeting.
In other business, the board:
• Approved the resignation of three coaches, one coaching hire, one food service retirement, two ESP resignations and one secretary resignation.
• Accepted the results of the 2015/2016 audit report.
• Approve a property exchange with the U.S. Geological Survey.
• Approved the nomination of Pat Medure to the RAMS Board of Directors with Ben Hawkins as the alternate.
• Approved the Hawk Construction bid for preparation of space to accommodate new STEM equipment to be installed at Grand Rapids High School.