School levy hike in St. Paul capped at amount on ballot

  • Article by: ANTHONY LONETREE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 18, 2012 - 7:44 PM

St. Paul schools will increase taxes next year by no more than 5.95 percent -- a hike that would result from passage of a Nov. 6 levy increase, district officials say.

Michael Baumann, the district's deputy of schools and business operations, said limiting the total levy increase to what the ballot proposal would raise was an effort to hold the line on taxes.

The school board gave preliminary approval to the district's levy plans Tuesday night, with the final vote to be taken in December -- after voters decide the levy increase's fate. Voters are being asked this fall to approve an excess levy that would raise about $34.6 million next year, board documents show. The new levy would replace one that expires in 2013 that had raised about $27.1 million in taxes this year.

If the excess levy fails, the district could raise its levy by about 3.7 percent without seeking voter approval. But the district's total tax revenues for 2013 would drop sharply because it no longer would collect excess-levy dollars. Superintendent Valeria Silva has warned that drastic cuts could follow.

If the excess levy passes, owners of a $149,000 house, about the median value of a home in the state's second-largest school district for the 2012 tax year, would see their taxes rise about $61 per year, board documents show. The district also then would forgo the 3.7 percent increase.

Overall, the district proposes raising $133.5 million in 2013, compared with $126 million this year, a 5.95 percent increase.

The district's levy is one of three major governmental components of a property tax bill.

Last week, the city capped its proposed levy increase at nearly 2 percent and Ramsey County said that it would raise its levy by no more than 1.7 percent next year.

Market-value changes also figure into tax-bill calculations, with homeowners whose values rise more quickly than others being vulnerable to bigger tax increases.

In May, the county assessor's office reported that residential and commercial values dropped by 7.4 percent and 3.2 percent overall, respectively, in St. Paul. Single-family homes in the Frogtown, Dayton's Bluff and North End areas showed the biggest median-value declines.

Anthony Lonetree • 651-925-5036

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