When local residents receive their tax bills in a couple months, they will see that the portion of their taxes that go toward the Merrill Area Public Schools has gone up 12.32 percent.
The MAPS Board of Education approved the final tax levy of $9.57 per thousand dollars of value to fund operations for the 2010-11 school year at a meeting Monday night. This is up from $8.52 per thousand from last school year. This came as the board approved the final 2010-11 budget, tax levy and revenue limit exemptions for energy efficiencies. The total raised for MAPS by the levy will be $11,215,458.
MAPS Finance Director Louise Fischer told the board that the final figure was up from what was approved at the annual meeting of electors because of several factors. When the initial budget was approved, final figures for such revenue sources as state aid, grant totals and several other variables were not available until the last week or so.
Fischer said the biggest cause of the increase in the levy was a decline in property values in the district, which affects how much state aid MAPS receives. Coupled with the declining enrollment, this was a two-pronged hit on the budget.
“When I put this together, I estimated that our property values would remain the same. I thought I was being conservative,” Fischer said. “Our two biggest sources of revenue are the state government and the local taxpayers. When the state doesn’t keep its end of the bargain, the taxpayers must make up the difference.”
Board President Jeff Verdoorn said that MAPS has seen a decrease in state aid of over $800,000 in the last two years, cuts the legislature made to education knowing the bill would be passed to local taxpayers.
“We have less money coming in from the state and this has gone directly to the levy,” Verdoorn said.
He said even with 80 percent of the MAPS budget taken up by salaries and benefits, the board has managed to keep expenditures to a fairly consistent 2.5 percent increase. Budget cuts have basically offset the structural deficit the budget faces each