Levy needed to fix gap
On Nov. 5, the Triton school district will be asking voters to approve a property tax levy that will raise an additional $750 per pupil.
The district has been trying to get a levy approved for three years and for many voters the biggest question is still why does the district need to raise taxes to fund the school? We already pay taxes for the school and the state pays for each student so why isn’t that enough?
Ask any school administrator in the state that question and the answer is likely to be because state funding has not kept up with inflation.
The state currently pays under $6,500 per pupil in state aid under its basic formula. If the formula was adjusted for inflation, school officials say, the state amount would be in excess of $7,500. There is a $1,416 gap between the base formula and the adjusted formula, school officials say.
This gap, Triton school officials say, is the reason they, along with many other schools in the state, are going to the voters to ask for levy increases.
While state funding has decreased over the past several years, the mandates given to school districts have also increased. Many of these, administrators and school board members say, are “unfunded” mandates meaning schools have been told to do them without giving additional money.
Currently, the Triton district does not have a voter-approved referendum, Superintendent Craig Schlichting said. The total revenue the district receives comes from combination of state aid and local optional revenue levy of $724 that is permitted by the state. Those two figures, $408,558.75 in state aid and $462,702.85 from the state approved local levy amount, give the district a total revenue of $871,261.60.
If the voters approve the referendum on Nov. 5, the total revenue received by the district will increase to $1,773,811.60. The district will still receive the $871,261.60 from the local optional revenue but that amount will be increased by $902,550.00 because of the referendum. That additional levy will increase the amount of state aid by approximately $200,000 in additional state equalization aid bringing the total amount of state aid to $606,116.30.
When it comes to taxation amounts, school officials also stress that Triton is asking for a levy referendum, not a bond referendum.
Unlike a bond referendum that taxes property owners on all of their property, a levy referendum taxes all property owners, farmers and city residents, equally. Agricultural property, both homestead and non-homestead will be based on the value of the house, garage and one acre of land. For seasonal residential recreational property, for example cabins, there will be no taxes paid as a result of the referendum.