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Grand Forks School District's finance committee supports no tax increase

The Grand Forks School District’s finance committee approved Monday a recommendation that wouldn’t increase property tax rates for the 2014-2015 school year.

The preliminary budget proposal would bring total revenue to $90.8 million, or a 4 percent increase from last year’s actual revenue, but keep the tax levy at 82 mills, said Business Manager Ed Gerhardt.

The district would be able to afford the bigger budget because it expects to collect more tax revenue with higher property values and construction growth in the district.

Committee members backed the proposal because it provides the district with a healthy cash reserve and satisfies state requirements to cap its mill levy at 82 mills by the 2015-2016 school year, they said.

Grand Forks is one of three districts in the state with an unlimited mill authority, but that authority will sunset in 2016.

The proposal also includes the anticipated savings from the consolidation of two schools on the Grand Forks Air Force Base and a $959,750 total cost for new teachers and paraprofessionals this year.

The committee will recommend the proposal to the School Board at its next meeting on Monday.

New proposal

Gerhardt presented three financial scenarios at the committee’s last meeting on Aug. 13.

All anticipated a 9.2 percent increase in overall spending for a total general-fund budget of $91.1 million. The property tax rate in each would also remain the same as it is now — at 89.78 mills — or decrease.

At last week’s meeting, members considered one scenario that lowered the tax rate to 83.76 mills. Including other funding, total revenue would be $91.1 million, a 4.4 percent increase.

In the new proposal, spending for supplies, equipment, furniture and transportation would be reduced to lower the tax rate to 82 mills. In light of that it’s still a balanced budget, said member Doug Carpenter.

Gerhardt presented members with more detailed spending explanations on these items, as they drove the majority of the 9.2 percent spending increase.

 Several of the biggest projected expenses, such as $90,000 for technology-related supplies, were significantly reduced last year as the district tried to save money. For instance, the district budgeted $129,204 for business office supplies but spent $12,333. The new proposal reflects what was actually spent last year.

The board must set the mill levy by its Sept. 29 meeting ahead of the Oct. 10final deadline.