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Bemidji School Board to set levy limit Friday

Bemidji School Board members will decide whether to set the levy limit at the same amount as last year when they gather for a special meeting at 6:30 a.m. Friday at the District Office, located at 3300 Gillett Drive N.W.

Normally, setting the same limit would not cause property taxpayers to pay more because the school district would not be asking for more money.

However, because of a change in a state law, taxpayers in the school district could collectively pay 5 percent more in taxes, according to Chris Leinen, the school district's director of business services.

To reach a budget deal that fixed a $5 billion budget deficit and ended the state government shutdown, Gov. Mark Dayton signed a tax bill that repealed the Homestead Residential Market Value Credit, which offered a longtime tax break. Legislators approved a new program called the Homestead Market Value Exclusion, which was set up to lower the value of a person's home for tax purposes.

By eliminating the credit, the state was able to save roughly $260 million, but the replacement of a homestead exclusion will likely mean higher property taxes for many property owners.

At a special work session two weeks ago, Leinen said he had not received the necessary information from the Minnesota Department of Education in order for him to give the board members a final recommendation on how to move forward with setting a tax levy limit. However, he added, it is likely he will still recommend the school board set the same levy limit as before once the Department gives him the information.

Last year, the school district levied $8,997,035.

Leinen noted the increase in taxpayer dollars caused by the new is "significantly less" in the seven-county metro area in the state compared to school districts in rural Minnesota.

At a previous board meeting, school board member John Pugleasa said he would not feel comfortable making a decision on setting the levy limit until he was given scenarios of other options, such as what cuts the district would have to make if it set a lower levy limit.

Leinen told the board he planned to give them more information about the money impacted and different levy limit scenarios during Friday's meeting.