Public speaks, D-E Board lowers levy increase
EYOTA — The Dover-Eyota School Board listened to the crowd of taxpayers who showed up for Monday night's truth-in-taxation hearing and levy approval. About a dozen residents showed up the hearing, held before the regular school board meeting.
"In the five years I've been on the board, that's the largest number of people who have shown up to truth-in-taxation," said board member Todd Peterson.
Dan Brandt, who farms in the district, told the board his taxes have gone up several years consecutively to the tune of roughly $2,000 a year. "I pay $14,000 to the school," Brandt said. "My taxes on the school have gone up 36 percent in the last two years."
With a rough farm economy and agricultural property values rising, he said, the increase in taxes is stretching his budget to the limit.
"No one can afford to buy a tractor," Brandt said. "My taxes cost me $25 an acre. That's not sustainable."
In September, the school board had approved a preliminary levy of $2,499,658 representing an increase of $383,337 or 18.1 percent over last year's levy. In the end, the district approved a levy of $2,445,892, a 15.6 percent increase from 2015's collected levy. The difference, $53,766, comes from cutting the levy amounts for safe schools and re-employment.
Dover-Eyota Superintendent Michael Carolan said those were two items the board historically had not levied, and cutting them would not affect any state aid money, which is tied to so many other levy items. The reasons for the increase in the first place included changes in state funding formulas and the desire to take advantage of levy funding items that came with tied-in state aid dollars.
One change was a reduction in state aid for debt service of $150,000 for the district. Another was the Local Optional Revenue levy. The LOR had a maximum levy of $422 per pupil, Carolan said. The board chose to levy $200 per pupil on that item.
While the total levy will leave the district a little short of their preferred reserve fund balance of 10 percent, Carolan said that money might come back from an unexpected source.
Before the construction bond issue was passed by voters last year, the board had set aside $200,000 in capital improvement funds to fix the athletic field. Since the field was covered under the bond issue, that $200,000 could come back. In addition, that part of the construction appears it may come in under budget.
If the money does come back, the district could use it for any capital outlay such as building maintenance or buying a new bus.
"If that money doesn't have to be spent, it creates the potential opportunity," Carolan said.
In other business
• The board got an update on construction projects from former superintendent Bruce Klaehn, who said that the pre-Christmas move-in at the renovated parts of the elementary school may need to be postponed a few days.
"The big issue is flooring," he said, explaining that new federal standards for glue used in flooring means a longer time for curing flooring materials.
"If we were to be moving in when we hoped to, we'd be laying carpet hand-over-foot, and we're not now."
• Carolan said he had sent invitations to potential members of the Dover Building Committee he hopes to form. The committee, which will assess the future of the former school building in Dover, will conduct its first meeting on Jan. 26. Before that meeting, he said, he'd like to get the property appraised.
"We want to get an assessment on the value of that property," he said.