Milaca School Board approves 3.31 percent levy increase for 2017

Milaca – The Milaca Board of Education unanimously approved a levy of $3.34 million for 2017 at their Dec. 19 meeting. The levy is an increase of $106,951, or 3.31 percent, over the previous year’s, which was $3.3 million.
The approval of the final budget and levy followed the board’s required Truth in Taxation presentation and hearing. Robin Vosberg-Torgerson, Milaca School District business manager, gave a presentation covering various financial details about the district, including what portion of the district’s funding is made up by levy money versus state aid, how this year’s proposed levy and the expenses it would cover differed from those of last year, and how the finances of the school district compare to statewide averages.
The $106,951 increase will amount to a $58,487 increase in the district’s general fund; a $18,982 decrease in the district’s community service fund, which is used to fund lifelong learning programs for the community; a $67,343 increase in the district’s debt service fund, which is used to pay debts like those incurred by building projects; and a $103 increase in the Other Post Employment Benefits debt service fund, which allows the district to pay post-employment benefit costs from a trust, which reduces the district’s operating expenditures.
The bulk of school property taxes go toward the Milaca district’s general fund, with 45.45 percent of the levy money, and its debt services fund, with 42.18 percent.
This year’s levy increase of 3.31 percent is smaller than last year’s increase, which was 6.15 percent.
When Vosberg-Torgerson completed her presentation and opened to those in attendance for questions or comments, a man who did not identify himself spoke in protest of the impact the school district’s expenditures in recent years have had on the property taxes of property owners in the Milaca area but do not reside there full time. He said he and his wife were “cabin dwellers” in Milaca, living full time in Hennepin County.
“The present levy going for us now is about $1,000 with the school district,” he said, “and it’s kind of ridiculous for us weekend, part-time users. You’re kind of expecting us to carry the burden that’s been created. We’re not here to tell you to stop creating, but I would like to make you aware of the burdens you’re causing to us and tell you to stop expecting others to fund the creations. As individuals, there’s a mob rule you’re using. It’s a killer of society, with this groupthink, and burdening people that have nothing to do with the future you envision here.”
This man noted that he had been in touch with the county assessor multiple times about his tax issues. He said the assessor had ignored direct questions and neglected to clear up issues related to ambiguous classification of his property.
“Since I have no vote, it’s clearly taxation without representation,” he continued, regarding the school board’s budget and levy decisions. “Basically all I can do is come to you guys.”
A man who identified himself as Ron Rinkel, of Morrison County, also spoke following Vosberg-Torgerson’s presentation, advocating for standardization of property value assessments.
“I believe Milaca School District is in four counties,” Rinkel said, “and the same piece of land I have in Morrison County, ag land, is valued at $2,000 an acre, and I come into Mille Lacs County, it’s $1,500 an acre, but if I went to Benton County, it would be valued at $2,500 and acre.”
Rinkel suggested inconsistent property value assessments were a “statewide issue.”
School Board Member Brandon Baker expressed sympathy toward Rinkel’s concern.
Vosberg-Torgerson noted in her presentation that two potential tax refunds are available to interested parties who meet certain criteria and fill out the necessary forms.
The Homestead Credit refund is available to homeowners with household income equal or less than $107,930 in 2015 who owned and lived in their home on Jan. 2, 2016. The maximum refund available through the Homestead credit is $2,640.
The Special refund is available to those who resided in their homes on both Jan. 2, 2016 and Jan. 2, 2017, whose net property tax increase is both 12 or more percent and more than $100 over last year. The maximum refund available through the Special refund is $1,000.
The necessary form for the Homestead Credit refund is form M1PR. The necessary form for the Special refund is form M1PR Schedule 1.