Local school district's referendum would lower taxes

Published: Mar. 21, 2018 at 6:19 PM CDT
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The April election is quickly approaching, and that means a vote for several school districts looking to pass referendums. While that usually means some sort of property tax increase, for one local school district it actually means a decrease.

The Gilman School District is asking people to vote "yes" on passing a nearly $3 million referendum spread out over the next 4 years. While that sounds like a lot of money for a district the size of 350 kids, it's enough to keep them running all while helping you save some money compared to previous years.

In a few weeks, taxpayers will be asked to pass a $2,975,000 referendum for 4 years.

“This is one of those opportunities as some building referendum debt is paid off, and previous referendum expires after this year,” said Wally Leipart, the Gilman School District Superintendent. “We've made additional payments to the little bit of debt remaining. We're asking for $200,000 less than we did this year.”

While the district's previous referendum is set to expire, the new one looks to decrease taxes $95 per $100,000 home.

Leipart explained, in 2018 they had a $3 million dollar tax levy making the mill rate $12.52. If passed, next year the mill rate would be $11.57 of $2.8 million dollars.

“We're able to keep it flat because we’re basically asking for about $2.8 million every year.”

That means, keeping taxes at a steady rate of about $11.57 for the next four years.

“Instead of asking for exactly what we need and building in tax increases annually through the referendum, we're actually asking for more in the first year and second year to pay for what happens in the fourth,” Leipart said.

One of the most common questions they get asked from taxpayers is if they vote no, doesn't that mean they'd be saving even more money? Leipart said the answer is yes, that means the school would be facing some major problems.

A failed referendum would mean a $400,000 deficit in the first year for the district and more than $600,000 the second year.

“As an example, I have 8 teachers in my elementary school, if I were to reduce the staff to make up that budget deficit, I’d have to lay off 7 teachers,” Leipart said. “Well I don't have enough teachers across the district to be able to do that in a way that wouldn't have a devastating impact on programming here.”

If passed, the majority of the money would go toward operations like programs, building projects, and upgrading security measures. The district is also set to begin an energy saving project that includes replacing some of the building's exterior to help reduce energy costs.

Leipart adds this ballot question on April 3rd is not a unique one and they anticipate they will always have to go to referendum due to the way funding is set up for schools. But said they believe it's a good investment to continue operating their school at maximum efficiency.

“We’re already telling people this is not a matter that will solve all that we will never have to go to referendum again, we anticipate that we will always have to go to referendum,” he said.

To find out more information about most commonly asked questions or how the referendum money will be split up,