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833 budget up 5.2 percent, slight tax increase for some homeowners

An economic recession usually means property values go down. In some parts of the county, the downward trend is 15 to 20 percent, according to national news reports.

Not all properties in School District 833 follow the national trend.

"Some property values increased and others decreased. They're all over the board," said Aaron Bushberger, finance director, to school board members at the Truth in Taxation hearing Dec. 2, attended by four residents.

Overall, there is a 2 percent increase in tax value of property within the district.

The average tax value of residential property in Cottage Grove and Woodbury is down slightly less than 1 percent, and 3 percent in St. Paul Park and Newport, according to information from the Washington County Auditor's Office.

Commercial property tax values in Woodbury were flat but went up 6 percent in Cottage Grove and 15 percent in Newport.

As a result, some district residents will see little change in the school district's part of the tax dollar and others will see a slight rise, according to Bushberger.

The formula used by the State of Minnesota to fund school districts is also having a tax impact in the district. As the total taxable value of district property increases, the state lowers its part of education funding, according to Bushberger.

The state's formula is outdated, district officials told local legislators in a handout at a meeting Dec. 4.

The formula continues to shift school funding from the state to local tax levies, district officials say.

The district's levy is up 5.2 percent or $2.4 million for 08-09.

"It's quite a significant shift," Bushberger said

The district's total levy is slightly less than $200 million. Of that amount, $53 million, or 18 percent of the levy, is in local taxes.

The district's general fund levy, is $155 million with $28 million in local taxes.

Also, districts across the state will get a 1 percent state increase in 2009 but it won't cover district expenses that generally rise 4 to 5 percent a year due to inflation, according to Superintendent Tom Nelson.

From 70 to 75 percent of the budget is in direct classroom instruction. About 80 percent of the budget is spent for salaries and benefits, Bushberger said.

The Legislature meets in January to decide education funding for the next two years and prospects for increases are not good, Nelson told board members at the Nov. 23 board meeting.

Also, for the first time since the early '80s, District 833 enrollment is not increasing and the previous district estimate of a 1 percent increase has been revised.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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