Bond financing plan calls for graduated mill increases


Unified School District 410 board president Rod Koons (standing, left) and member Dale Klassen lead discussion Monday at the first informational meeting about the upcoming bond election. About 20 patrons attended the session about the $6.625 million proposal. Koons and Klassen reviewed aspects of the proposed facility changes and fielded questions from the audience. Projected costs, mill-levy increases, ongoing maintenance and the proposed partnership between the public school district and Tabor College, a private institution, were among concerns raised. Superintendent Gordon Mohn, who arrived toward the end of the meeting, and architect Ken Helmer of Howard & Helmer, also provided input. Mohn said the verbal agreements between Mohn and President Larry Nikkel are being formalized in light of both administrators leaving their positions. Koons said plans are to hire an interim superintendent who has construction experience to oversee the project if the bond election passes. Another meeting is planned for 7 p.m. May 15 in the high school technology classroom. Aleen Ratzlaff / Free Press. Click image to enlarge.

The Unified School District 410 Board of Education is attempting to make its $6.625 million bond issue as palatable as it can for district taxpayers, officials say.

One piece of that strategy is to refinance the past several years of the bond that was issued in 1992 for the construction of Hillsboro Middle School, and then phase in the mill-levy increase over the 20-year life of the bond.

?Right now, we have 3.165 mills being used to pay for the middle school project,? said Superintendent Gordon Mohn. ?What we?ve looked at is, to keep the mill levy even, how much more will it take to finance (the proposed projects)??

The first year, taxpayers will see a net increase of 2.335 mills in 2007-08. Over the next several years, the levy will gradually increase to a net gain of 4.835 mills.

Impact in dollars

What is the impact on your personal tax bill?

On residential property, the owner of a $100,000 house will see a monthly increase of $2.24 in property tax during the first year, when the mill levy is 2.335 mills. Eventually, it will increase $4.63 a month when the full 4.835 mills is levied.

For a full year, that means an increase of $26.85 in 2007-08, and eventually an increase of $55.60 per year at the highest levy.

Meanwhile, owners of rural land used for agricultural purposes will be taxed according to the land?s ag-use value, not its market value.

?If you look at the tax roll, generally ag-use value is about a quarter of what the market-value is,? Mohn said. ?That?s based on the productivity of the land?how much can it generate, what has it done before, what is the quality of the soil, and those kind of issues.?

The owner of a plot of land valued for ag use at $100,000 will pay an additional $5.84 a month ($70.05 a year) during the 2007-08 year when the mill levy is at the low end of 2.335 mills.

At the highest mill levy of 4.835, the landowner will pay $12.09 more than he or she currently does per month, which comes to $145.05 a year.

For owners of commercial real estate appraised at $100,000, the additional tax burden in the first year will be $4.87 a month ($58.38 a year) and gradually increase to $10.07 a month ($120).

More for less

Mohn said another way to think about the value of the proposed investment is to consider the bigger picture of what the district will gain compared to what patrons actually will pay for the projects through their local property taxes.

While the stated amount for the bond is $6.625 million, the total value of project is $8.64 million, counting the share Tabor College will raise on its own for improvements at the football and track facility on the college campus.

Beyond that, state aid will kick in 31 percent of the district?s obligation of $6.625 million. That means local taxpayers will be asked to pay $4.57 million for an $8.64 project.

Even so, Mohn added, it?s still a significant undertaking.

?We?ve got to be up front: It?s going to cost you more tax dollars,? Mohn said. ?But so often you hear about tax hikes and you think, man, this is going to kill me. Personally, I don?t think $3.30 or $7 a month is going to kill me. But I know some people will think differently.?

Based on the facts

Mohn said the board?s plan is simply to explain the plan as clearly as it can, and then leave it up the voters to decide if it?s worth the personal investment.

?Our position is, we?re going to provide the information for you,? he said. ?We?re not here to campaign to vote yes or no. We?re going to inform you, and the facts ought to drive how you make a decision.?

By statute, a school board can?t use tax dollars to direct a campaign to pass a bond issue. Members of the board, acting as individuals, can sit on groups that are organized for that purpose.

?They can create a campaign to vote, but they can?t create a campaign to vote yes,? Mohn said. ?My take is that we can pass it just by going out and informing people. We don?t need ?shish-boom-bah, go vote? thing.

?Although,? he added, ?I?d sure hate to take that position and it would fail.?

What benefit?

Mohn said he realizes a lot of the benefit the public sees is related to athletics.

?It?d be a lot easier if all $6.6 million was going into direct classroom instruction,? he said. ?There?s a lot of this that helps make us a better school. But if I?m asked how is it going to impact academic learning?when you go beyond the science classroom, and assuring we can keep (elementary) class sizes decent, there?s not a lot where you can say it has that kind of impact.?

But the proposal does offer benefits, he added.

?If you look at the big picture, and you think quality activity programs are part of developing young people, then this helps do that,? Mohn said.

?And if you think about the long-term of the community, and enhancing the attractiveness of the community, it helps in that way, too.?

That said, Mohn said he believes each of the components of the project does appeal to different segments of the constituency.

?If you?re a sports fan, the Tabor thing ought to attract you,? he said. ?If you?re a parent of an elementary student, or if you?ve had elementary students and you understand the parking and traffic issues there, and understand the lunchroom situation, that ought to attract you.

?If you?re interested in science education, we have a piece that will help in that area.?


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