September 29, 2015

School Board okays $16.5 million budget

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

The McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 approved a 14.24 percent General Fund mill increase for school district patrons as it finalized a $16.5 million budget for the 2015-16 school year during a special meeting on Thursday, Sept. 24.
According to Steve Holen, district superintendent, the General Fund mill levy was needed in order to help meet the state’s requirement that North Dakota school districts have a minimum mill levy of 60 mills.
“School districts in North Dakota are subject to a foundation aid formula for state funding and it requires a 60 mill local general fund levy as part of its funding structure,” stated Holen. “For school districts, like ours, with rapidly increasing taxable valuations, we are unable to get to 60 mills.”
Last year, according to Holen, McKenzie County Public School District No. 1’s General Fund levy was 56.94 mills. For the 2015-16 school year, that levy will be 51.69 mills.
“In order to avoid losing state funding for the mills we can’t generate, the school district levies its maximum of a 12 percent increase,” stated Holen.
Even with the 14.24 percent increase in the General Fund mill levy, the school district’s total mill levy will remain at last year’s level of 87.50 mills.
“That means that unless property owners have seen an increase in their property valuations, taxpayers in our school district will not see an increase in their taxes,” stated Holen.
And considering that the school district added 12 new teaching positions this year and will be moving students into a new high school building in January, Holen is pleased that property owners will not see an increase in their taxes.
“We were able to cover the cost of the new teachers and the maintenance and operation costs of the new high school and still keep our total mill levy the same,” stated Holen. “That’s pretty amazing.”
A big reason that the school district has been able to hold the line on its total mill levy increase is because of the increase in the property values.
“The total taxable valuation of property within the McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 increased by nearly $17 million from last year,” stated Holen. “Last year, our taxable valuation was $71,356,150, and this year it is $88,033,349. That increase in total taxable valuation means that the district will generate more tax dollars while leaving its mill levy the same as last year.”
For the 2015-16 school year, the school board approved a budget of $16,587,963, compared to $14.8 million last year.
“For years, the school district has budgeted deficits of between $200,000 and $300,000,” stated Holen. “In this budget, we are budgeting a deficit of $15,673, which means we are budgeting for a balanced budget.”
According to Holen, the lion’s share of the increase in the district’s budget from last year is due to the increased cost of the 12 new teaching positions, as well as the costs associated with maintaining the new high school, which will open to students in January. In addition, the budget provides $225,000 for a new reading series at the elementary school, as well as $75,000 for a maintenance shop for the school’s bus fleet.
“Based on our enrollment numbers, we are comfortable with where we are at with the number of teaching positions that we have,” stated Holen. “We are not overstaffed.”