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Board: It will limit tax impact

October 26, 2011
Kylie Saari - Staff Writer , Fairmont Sentinel

FAIRMONT - Fairmont Area School Board members have decided to limit the tax impact of a proposed operating referendum, which goes before voters Nov. 8.

The district is asking residents to revoke a $500 per pupil unit levy and replace it with a $1,250 levy. In addition, a second question will ask for $150 per pupil unit, for a total of $1,400.

That isn't how much the district plans to collect, however. The board decided Tuesday to collect $1,000 per pupil unit in the next school year if the referendum passes.

"Financially, we don't need $1,400 next year," said Superintendent Joe Brown. "But we do need $1,000."

Brown said that with aid from the state increasing per new student, the district will be able to hold out with less from taxpayers.

In ensuing school years, the board promises to hold town meetings to determine the proper levy for the district and its residents.

The school board's decision just two weeks prior to the referendum largely has to do with state-imposed deadlines that mean districts have to make decisions about taxes before they have all their information. The school board was required to set the operating levy amount in September - before it saw a change in enrollment that gave the district unexpected additional income. In addition, the district saw a savings of $166,000 in heating bills last year because of new boilers at its buildings.

Brown said the school board was able to reach a decision about needing a smaller levy based partly on public meetings.

"It isn't that people are against giving us more money," Brown said. "They just wish it wasn't such a leap."

School board member Julie Laue agreed.

"$1,400 is the levy authority," she said, "which means we have the authority. At this time, because of enrollment and everything, we don't plan to use that whole authority."

If the first question of the referendum passes and not the second, the district will still only use $1,000 of its authority. If question two passes and not question one, the tax amount would be $650 - the current $500 per pupil unit, plus $150 from question two. If neither question passes, the $500 amount would stand, although that levy expires in a few years.

The district would be unable to try for another operating levy until the next general election in November 2012.



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