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Bemidji school board: Preliminary 2013 levy adopted

BEMIDJI – The Bemidji school district is bucking a statewide trend.

The tax base in the school district increased by 2.4 percent this year while the state average was a decline of 1.7 percent.

“A growing tax base is good because it allows the same number of dollars to be spread over a larger pie,” said Chris Leinen, the director of business services for the school district, during a Monday evening Bemidji school board meeting. “We actually are faring fairly well compared to the state as a whole.”

Leinen provided the information as he presented his proposal for the district’s 2013 preliminary budget. The school board unanimously approved his recommendation of $9,200,737.87 for 2013, an increase of 2.62 percent.

School board members will again consider the levy as it adopts a final amount in December, but that figure cannot be higher than the preliminary levy amount.

“This is a very close target to where it should be in December,” Leinen said.

The maximum levy that could have been levied by the Bemidji school board was more than $10 million.

The largest portion of the levy is dedicated to paying off bonds for buildings and post-employment benefits. That amount, or about $4.3 million, constitutes 46 percent of the total levy.

The second-largest portion of the levy, about 25 percent, or $2.3 million, comes from the voter-approved $501-per-pupil operating levy.

That operating levy, up for renewal this fall, funds all-day, every-day kindergarten and new buses and has helped keep class sizes down.

In comparison to other districts, Bemidji’s operating levy is modest. Leinen reported that the state-imposed cap for such operating levies is more than $1,600 and the state average is $936 per pupil.

“Our 501 is significantly below the state average,” he said.