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District details tax effects of bond issue

Mark Stotts, director of finance and operations, had not received a letter as of Thursday from the Minnesota Department of Education regarding the review and comment for the Austin Public Schools’ plans for a November special election.

Depending on how long the government stays shutdown, the fall election might be in jeopardy if the district doesn’t get confirmation to proceed by the Aug. 26 deadline.

With that in mind, there’s also no exact "plan B" if the 20-year, $28.9 million bond referendum for Austin Public Schools fails to pass.

Stotts has two things that he "can almost say for certain" if the levy to build a new intermediate school fails: Class sizes would go up and the district would look into moving programs out of schools and into leased space.

"Even if the school referendum doesn’t pass, there’s still going to be a cost involved if we look at moving programs to off-site facilities that we have to lease," Stotts said.

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As for class sizes, they would likely increase with the growing enrollment projections. Austin Public Schools expects 400-500 more students over the next four to five years, based on children who

are already born in the district.

Looking beyond that timeframe, the district has the potential to see anywhere from 800 to 1,000 more students over the next 10 years. These numbers come from the study of an independent demographer, Stotts said.

One of the main issues with increasing class sizes is that the student-to-teacher ratio also increases.

"It’s just not a good learning environment," Stotts said. "Our schools would be really crowded, particularly when we get to those years where we’re expecting our peak enrollment."

This proposed levy, however, would raise property taxes on $8.9 million of the plan. Roughly the first $20 million of construction costs would not affect property taxes because of the 20-year bond from Austin High School renovations finishing this year.

If the bond referendum fails, property taxes would go down.

A levy renewal with an increase failed in 2009, so a straight renewal levy (with no tax increase) passed in 2010.

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If people oppose the bond referendum because of the affect on property taxes?

"I respect that opinion," Stotts said. "I’m not going to try and change their mind."

The district hasn’t built an entirely new facility for about 60 years.

Stotts wanted to make it clear that the district does not want a new building just for the sake of having a new building. The facilities task force looked at more than 20 scenarios to try and relieve the enrollment constraints.

"We’ve looked at a lot of different options here," Stotts said. "We feel that this is a very economical plan. We feel it’s a good grade configuration because it relieves the elementary schools, it relieves the middle school.

"It’s not just that we want a new building," Stotts said. "It’s we need the space. That’s the bottom line."

Bond issue tax impact

Property type   Taxable market value   Taxes if levy passes  Tax increase (passes) Tax change (fails)

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Residential

homestead

                              $100,000                     $125                          +$50                        -$76

                              $125,000                     $157                          +$62                        -$95

                              $150,000                     $188                          +$74                        -$114

                              $175,000                     $219                          +$87                        -$133

                              $200,000                     $251                          +$99                        -$152

Commercial/

Industrial

                             $100,000                      $188                          +$74                        -$114

                             $200,000                      $408                          +$161                       -$246

                             $300,000                      $658                          +$260                    -$398

                             $400,000                      $909                          +$360                    -$550

                             $500,000                      $1,160                       +$459                    -$701

Agricultural

homestead

                             $200,000                      $188                          +$74                       -$114

                             $400,000                      $314                          +$124                       -$190

                             $600,000                      $439                          +$174                    -$265

                             $800,000                      $564                          +$223                    -$341

                             $1,000,000                   $690                          +$273                    -$417

        

Agricultural

non-homestead

(Dollars per acre)

                             $2,000                          $2.51                          +$0.99                    -$1.52

                             $2,250                          $2.82                          +$1.12                    -$1.71

                             $2,500                          $3.14                          +$1.24                    -$1.90

                             $2,750                          $3.45                          +$1.36                    -$2.08

                             $3,000                          $3.76                          +$1.49                    -$2.27

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