Two questions will be on the Nov. 5 special election ballot; a yes vote on question #1 would actually result in a property tax decrease on school district portion paid by property owners.
With Crookston School District voters poised to answer two ballot questions on Nov. 5 put before them for consideration by the school board, Superintendent Jeremy Olson, who has been on a public information and education blitz for weeks, said this week that he’s spending most of his “time, energy and effort” on the ballot questions leading up to Tuesday.
There is a single polling place on election day, and it’s St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Absentee ballots for the special election are available at the school district office at Crookston High School until 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 4. Request an absentee ballot from Office Coordinator Marilyn Wahouske. The office is accessible via door #10 at CHS. For more, call Wahouske at 281-5313, ext. 3.
The first question will ask voters to extend for 10 years an operating levy that’s due to expire in 2022. If voters reject that request, the question will most likely appear on future ballots leading up to the 2022 expiration.
As part of extending the operating levy, district voters are actually being asked to repeal the current operating levy, which contains revenue specifically earmarked for the Crookston Community Swimming Pool, of which ownership was transferred from the school district to the City of Crookston earlier this year. Currently, the operating levy brings in $604 per student; if repealed and replaced, the per-student revenue, minus the pool money, would be $523. So, Olson stresses, although statute requires that the ballot question include words indicating voters are approving a property tax increase if they vote in favor, when the pool revenue is removed from the equation, a yes vote would actually amount to a property tax decrease on the district portion of taxes paid by district property owners.
Olson says agricultural land would be “held harmless” and not taxed via the operating levy referendum.
The current operating levy brings in approximately $1 million in revenue to the school district each year. School Board Chair Frank Fee says it would be a major blow to the district to lose that revenue. “We’d be cutting around a million dollars,” he said, adding that the board cut around $400,000 in the 2019-20 school year budget already. “There’s nothing much left to cut,” Fee noted.
The second question asks voters to approve the district constructing a new bus garage/transportation facility on Highland School property for $2.985 million. Voting yes will result in a property tax increase, since it’s a construction bond. Olson stresses the ag land tax credit passed by the legislature, which next year amounts to a 50% credit, meaning the state will pay for 26% of the bus garage if its construction is approved by a majority of district voters.
The district’s current bus garage is more than 80 years old and is in bad shape.
The total tax impact if voters approve both questions, Olson says, is as follows:
• $50K home, no increase
• $100K home, $4 increase per year
• $150K home, $11 increase per year
• $200K home, $18 a year.