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GMR Board approves operating levy question

Greenbush School site

After numerous work sessions and meetings, the GMR Board unanimously decided what funding question to put on a November 3 ballot. The board approved a question that would ask voters to revoke the $506.05 per pupil unit operating levy and replace it with a 10-year, $1,306.05 per pupil levy during an August 6 special morning meeting.

If passed, this levy would begin in taxes payable 2021 and it would increase each year by inflation rate. This levy would produce approximately $360,992 annually for the school; the district’s current levy produces $139,872 annually, according to a table provided in the July 29, 2020 GMR Board meeting agenda. If not passed, the district has at least one more attempt to pass an operating levy before its current one expires.

For taxes payable 2021, this levy, if passed, would be $1,306.05 per pupil with the estimated annual revenue of $360,992, but the inflationary rate would begin taking effect on taxes payable 2022 (fiscal year 2022-23).

The board addressed the inflation aspect. GMR Board member Brandon Kuznia asked Matthew Hammer (from the district’s financial advisor financial advisor, Ehlers & Associates) if adding the inflation into the levy would lower the likelihood of it getting passed.

Kuznia asked, “Is it worth having it in there? Will it complicate things for people who might not understand it?”

According to Hammer, inflation has been anywhere from 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent over the last four to five years, a rate figured by the Minnesota Department of Education.

“I will say that the inflationary adjustment has become far more common with operating levy elections,” Hammer said, “and I would say it’s been included more often than not as of late.”

Board Chairperson Shane Kilen also addressed the inflation topic and didn’t think it would be an issue.

“(Regarding) the inflation factor, I talked to a couple business guys around town, and they just said, ‘Inflation is inflation,’” Kilen said. “They didn’t have a problem with it.”

At its August 6 meeting, the board decided between four revoke and replace options, choosing the third option. They are listed as follows:
Option 1: Revoke $506.05 operating levy and replace with $1,406.05 operating levy subject to inflation
Option 2: Revoke $506.05 operating levy and replace with $1,406.05 operating levy
Option 3: Revoke $506.05 operating levy and replace with $1,306.05 operating levy subject to inflation
Option 4: Revoke $506.05 operating levy and replace with $1,306.05 operating levy

Regardless of the option chosen and if it passes, as GMR Superintendent Larry Guggisberg again highlighted, this levy is not the sole answer to solving the financial issues of the district— one that finds itself in a projected deficit of $545,371 this fiscal year.

“I indicated to you that a referendum is not the panacea for what your budget issues are,” Guggisberg said. “You’re going to have to do or you will need to do some budget reductions in addition to a referendum that would pass.”

At a July 20 board meeting, Guggisberg highlighted how the district has to adapt to the size of its school. He has mentioned cost sharing with other districts and budget reductions in prior meetings, and emphasized reductions again at the August 6 special meeting.

“Your referendum is important,” Guggisberg said, “but so are budget reductions.”

To see the complete story, read the August 12 issue of The Tribune in print or online.

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