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School Board votes to adopt decreased levy

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BEMIDJI -- Local taxpayers should be happy with the school district's portion of their tax bill next year year.

"This year, we're looking at a decrease in the levy," said Chris Leinen, director of business services for Bemidji Area Schools.

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The School Board, following its annual truth-in-taxation hearing, voted unanimously Monday to adopt a levy of $8,509,243, reflecting a 7.5 percent decrease from the previous year.

The action continues a district tradition of "under-levying," or levying an amount less than its state-determined limits, in appreciation of the voters' support in continuing the district's operating levy.

The district could have levied up to about $9.36 million from property owners, but voted to adopt a levy just more than $8.5 million.

"(That figure is) continuing your historical promise to under-levy because of the referendum that you have received," Leinen said.

The board had previously supported the levy decrease in response to changes enacted last session by the state Legislature.

"The Legislature did step up and put K-12 education as a high priority for funding," said Jim Hess, superintendent of Bemidji Area Schools. "That state has recognized the importance and has provided more resources to have a 1.5 percent increase (in funding) in the current year and next year."

Just about half of the levy -- 49 percent -- goes toward the general fund, 47 percent to debt service and 4 percent to Community Education.

Seventy-nine percent of the district's $64.8 million expenditures go toward wages and benefits.

"We are a people business," Leinen said.

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