School district alters tax plans

Well, it’s a tax surprise, all right.

“But it’ll be a pleasant surprise,” notes District 622 Communications Director Jennifer McNeil.

In what was apparently an 11th-hour spate of number crunching, the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District 622 has lowered its 2006 levy. The property-tax levy, which had been proposed to go up 12 percent, will go up 6 percent, McNeil said.

That means residents’ “proposed tax statements” from the county will show twice the increase their actual tax statement will.

The district was unable to get the new figures published prior to its Dec. 6 truth-in-taxation hearing. A handful of property owners appeared to voice concern about a double-digit tax increase, McNeil said, “but once all the changes were explained to them, they were satisfied.”

Basically, the 6 percent increase reflects the increased levy the district will be making to replace lost state aid in its general fund and operating capital funds.

The district will not be levying for funding for a “quality compensation” plan, as it had expected, because the plan will not come together in time to apply for matching funds from the state.

The district also cut back on some ambitious remodeling plans for 2006, so a big levy for removal of asbestos in areas undergoing remodeling will not be needed.

Cuts on the way?

Neither the “Q-Comp” or the asbestos abatement funds would have helped with the district’s current problem: getting day-to-day operations to run in the black for 2006-07.

Even with increased ability to levy for operating expenses, district planners say skyrocketing fuel and energy costs are eating up the “extra” money they will receive from local taxes, and they will not be able to hoist the balance out of the red.

With an expected shortfall of $4 million to $5 million as the 2006-07 school year closes, the district is looking now for ideas of how to cut expenses.

In a plea on its Web site, the district cites declining enrollment, rising employee wage and benefit costs, the fuel and energy bills “and other inflationary increases” as contributors to the problem.

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