The Rochester School Board approved the preliminary tax levy for the coming year on Tuesday while also making plans for budget cuts that will have to be implemented down the road.
The Board previously reviewed the preliminary tax levy in September. At that time, though, the district's finance director, John Carlson, advised waiting to approve it until the district could verify some numbers with the state.
The board approved the preliminary tax levy in the amount of $69.3 million, which represents an increase of 5.1% over the year before. The amount approved on Tuesday was slightly higher than the $68.7 million discussed at the initial presentation in September.
Even with the higher amount, though, taxpayers likely will see a little bit of a reprieve. According to Carlson's presentation, the taxes on a $200,000 home will decrease by $22, “assuming the value of the home stayed the same from 2019 to 2020."
Carlson said a broadening tax base is the reason individuals’ taxes can decrease while the tax levy increases.
The board will approve the final tax levy in December. Between the time the board approves the preliminary levy and the time it approves the final levy, the total number can decrease but not increase.
Although approving the levy was relatively straight-forward, the board members also discussed the more involved process of preparing for future budget cuts and discussed when and how they should go about that process.
According to information the district prepared for the meeting, state officials likely will cut the overall budget in 2021, which would have ramifications for schools. On top of that, Rochester Public Schools will be expanding its operations once the new schools associated with the referendum approved in 2019 are completed.
“For 2021-22, district administration expects more challenges than usual, especially considering the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” the information packet for the board meeting said. "Budgeting for 2021-22 and 2022-23 will likely be two incredibly challenging budget cycles for the district."