Property owners likely will pay $69.3 million in taxes to Rochester Public Schools in 2021.
The School Board reviewed the proposed amount Tuesday during its Truth in Taxation meeting. The full amount in the proposal the board reviewed was $69,323,904.
Tuesday's meeting was the latest in a process the district has to undergo to establish its budget. The board set the preliminary levy in October. It is expected to certify the tax levy Dec. 15.
According to RPS Director of Finance John Carlson, the amount is $3.4 million higher than it was last year. However, just because the district is collecting more taxes doesn't mean every property owner will feel the impact.
"All other things being equal, if your house value didn't change, you may be actually looking at a property tax decrease even though the school district is looking at collecting more property taxes as a whole next year," Carlson said. "That's because there are more properties and more businesses on the tax roles than there were this year."
The tax base increased quite a bit for a single year, from $15 billion to $16.1 billion, representing a 7.6% rise. There was $350 million added in new construction and an increase of $792 million in the value of existing homes and businesses.
Carlson attributed the increase in the overall tax amount to several factors, including unemployment costs related to the pandemic, property tax abatements, and the district's facilities maintenance and bonding plan.
He said the district is obligated to pay a portion of the unemployment costs associated with its employees who have lost jobs, even if those jobs aren't connected to RPS. In other words, staff members at RPS may have had second jobs that they lost. Because of that, the unemployment costs increased with the pandemic, even if the district didn't actually let any staff go. Those additional unemployment costs represented $1.8 million of the $3.4 million increase in taxes.
Carlson provided a list, showing how much residents pay to their schools in 10 area districts. Rochester was second from the bottom, with surrounding communities like Byron, Stewartville, Dover-Eyota, Kasson-Mantorville and Pine Island all paying more in property taxes to their respective school districts.
The meeting provided an opportunity for members of the public to comment either live or in written comments submitted beforehand. However, no one asked to speak, nor were any comments submitted.
The board also received an overview of what the budget looks like for the current school year. At the end of the year, the district will have a fund balance of $43 million.
"(That) will position us well for going forward into the next year in uncertain times with the state's budget," Carlson said.