$300,000 school opt-out reduction appears likely

$300,000 school opt-out reduction appears likely
When the Vermillion School District decided last year to opt-out of the state property's tax freeze by $800,000, it promised that if circumstances permitted, it would look for every opportunity to save money and not ask for that entire amount.

It appears the school board is prepared to keep its promises.

The school board's finance committee has examined the district's various fund balances, and is recommending that when budget time rolls around next month, the board reduce the amount of requested opt-out funds by $300,000.

"As far as projected fund balances, we're looking at about a$226,000 increase in the general fund balance," said Finance Committee member Nick Merrigan. "There is a sizeable $196,000 in Capital Outlay, $48,000 in SPED (special education) and $71,000 in pension."

Merrigan said the committee has authorized moving some funds from guidance and library back to keep the school district from being in violation of the 20 percent fund balance limitation ordered by the state.

By moving the funds back and forth and to keep the fund balance in check, the money stays in within the local school district, he said.

"I would rather take the heat for having the fund balance grow and keeping it in the district rather than sending it to Pierre," Merrigan said.

The committee feels comfortable in reducing the opt-out amount by $300,000.

"We did find some increased revenue," Merrigan said. "County apportionment is up, gross receipts are up, state apportionment is climbing pretty steadily, and so is the bank franchise tax."

The district is also able to maintain its contingency fund at approximately $150,000 to cover some extra expenses that may come from adding a new bus route, or adding a new section of kindergarten in the elementary school.

The state apportionment budget, which has averaged approximately $92,000 for the last 15 years, has climbed steadily to approximately $100,000.

"One of the things we propose with that is to address the classified salary schedule with an across-the-board dollar bump," Merrigan said. That increase will be paid by additional revenue that's coming in from fines and from state money.

Currently, the opt-out tax levy for agriculture property valued at $1,000 is 1.146. The levy will decrease to .716, meaning the opt-out tax for ag property valued at $100,000 will decrease from $114.60 to $71.60.

The opt-out tax levy for owner-occupied property valued at $1,000 is going down from 1.843 to 1.152, meaning the opt-out taxes for owner occupied property valued at $100,000 will decrease from $184.30 to $115.20.

Property categorized as "other" will see a opt-out tax levy reduce from 3.952 to 2.470, which translates into a decrease from $395.20 to $247 for "other" property valued at $100,000.

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