Archived Story

School referendum vote set for next month

Published 7:01am Sunday, October 27, 2013

Austin Public Schools is hoping the public renews one of its two operating levies next month.

A $1 million operating levy is set to expire at the end of the year, unless voters renew the 10-year levy through 2023 when they vote Nov. 5.

Unlike previous years, taxes are guaranteed to decrease regardless of the vote. The Minnesota Legislature voted to change the state’s equalization aid formula earlier this year, which the district uses to help balance the cost of funding its levies, compared to larger, more prosperous communities. The state will cover 60 percent of the levy, as opposed to 49 percent in previous years.

That $100,000 difference translates to savings for the average Austin taxpayer, as the owner of a $125,000 home would likely save about $52 per year in taxes, according to Mark Stotts, the district’s finance director.

If voters decided not to renew the levy, taxes on that same $125,000 would drop by about $113, Stotts said.

A $500,000 commercial property’s taxes would decrease by $207 per year if the referendum passed, and $451 per year if it failed.

The operating levy will go into the districts $50 million general fund, which is used to pay staff wages and benefits, and cover utilities, among other things. A $1 million loss would likely lead to staff cuts.

“It isn’t a huge piece, but it’s an important piece,” Stotts said. “If we don’t renew this, we’d have to make reductions. When we talk about reducing budgets or programs, we’re talking about people.”

There will be fewer polling stations than usual, since 2013 is an off-election year. Voters can cast their ballots at Austin Public Library, Austin High School, Southland Elementary School, Banfield Elementary School, Woodson Kindergarten Center and Ellis Middle School. To find out where to vote this year, visit the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website at or contact Sue Hanson at (507)-460-1909.

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