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Austin School Board approves and certifies levy, accepts audit

As expected, the Austin School Board on Monday unanimously approved a 2.04 percent increase to its property tax levy, payable in 2018.

Members voted after the board’s Truth in Taxation hearing.

An increase in the long-term facilities maintenance levy of $187,827, just one of the levies included in the overall general levy, helped to generate the overall levy increase of $135,566, according to Executive Director of Finance and Operations Mark Stotts.

It marks the first increase in the levy for the past few years, he added.

The total levy will be $6,781,472, up from $6,645,906 a year ago. The figures haven’t changed since the preliminary levy was OK’d in September.

Unlike cities and counties who also set their levies, school boards have little control over the levies whose formulas are set by the Minnesota Legislature.

The local levy represents just a little over 6 percent of the overall $64 million budget. The vast majority of funding comes in state aid.

The board also accepted its 2016-2017 audit, as prepared by CliftonLarsonAllen and presented by Kimberley Hillberg. She applauded work done by the Stotts and the district’s finance department. No deficiencies were found and no concerns raised.

“Kudos to them,” she said. She outlined each fund, reflecting much of what Stotts had covered in the levy hearing.

In other business:

Report: Heard from Community Learning Center director Amy Baskin that a study is being initiated on the negative impact of technology used by preschoolers. The issue was raised by teachers who have noticed impacts on development. Baskin said more will be reported as the study continues.

Donation: Accepted and expressed gratitude for a $500 donation  made by the Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services Operation Round-up to Woodson Kindergarten Center for school supplies. Operation Round-up is the cooperative’s charitable arm.