St. Peter Public Schools did what most all districts do in setting its preliminary levy at the maximum for 2021.
A significant portion of any district’s budget comes from local tax dollars, and in St. Peter, there is both a voter approved operating referendum levy, which accounts for about $1.5 million in the district’s 2021 budget, in addition to the general fund ($3.39 million), community education ($161,000) and debt service ($3.28 million) levies that all districts utilize. For the non-referendum levies, the district must set the levy for each year, and almost all districts go the maximum allowed by the state, at least for the preliminary levy set in September, so they have flexibility when it comes to final levy time in December.
The final levy can go down but not up in December.
“I don’t know of any school district that doesn’t set it at the max for the preliminary,” St. Peter Public Schools Superintendent Bill Gronseth told his School Board Oct. 15. “What it does is allow flexibility as you move into December, especially this year, given all the potential expenses related to the pandemic.”
The maximum for 2021 represents a 2.37%, or $157,000, increase to the total St. Peter School District levy. The total levy dollars would move from $6.64 million in 2020 to $6.80 million in 2021. There is a good chance the final levy will remain at the maximum, as the district has set it there in the past, and it may be in serious need of the dollars, depending on the ongoing developments of the pandemic.
District Finance Director Tim Regner laid out some of the expected cost increases in 2021.
He noted re-employment dollars are up by about $19,000, estimating the district’s unemployment costs will be up. Career and technology dollars also are slated to increase by about $49,000, due to the increased costs of career and technical education classes this school year.
An increase in enrollment is expected to account for an additional $77,000, long-term facilities maintenance is up $68,000; and the debt service levy is expected to increase $79,000.
Over the next two months, the 2021 budget, along with enrollment numbers, will be further refined, and the levy will be impacted accordingly.