Washington Evening Journal
http://washington-ia.villagesoup.com/p/1117597

Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 25, 2014

School district sees decline in tax rate again

Savings will depend on the valuation of property
By David Hotle | Feb 19, 2014

Again this year, Washington Schools Superintendent Mike Jorgensen announced that the tax rate for the school district would drop. Unofficial projections this year show that the rate will be $14.127 per $1,000 of taxable valuation, down 52 cents from the current levy of $14.64.
Jorgensen said that he was uncertain how this drop would impact property owners’ tax rate, except to say that each case would be different. He said that tax revenues to the district aren’t dropping. He said that some of the lowering of the rate is based on a projected $3 million increase in valuation of the school district. He also said that given that the overall valuation is about $405 million, the increase in property value wouldn’t totally make up the difference. Jorgensen said much of the increased revenue is coming from the state due to increased enrollment in the district. The school district was also able to lower a management levy that was bumped up last year to facilitate early retirements.
“I would say the majority of the people, in terms of what their school tax levy is, would be paying less,” Jorgensen said. “Three million dollars on a $405 million of valuation is less than 1 percent.”
Jorgensen said that income tax still has to be figured in and that the tax rate could still fluctuate up to 10 cents. He said in the past when the rate has changed, it has always been in favor of the taxpayers. He said that the money to fund the district is being funded more with state funding and spread out more through increased valuation.
Tax rates have been falling since peaking in 2011 at $17.46. Jorgensen said that the rate has dropped a total of $3.34 in that time. He said this is a significant decline and whether people’s valuations have increased, they are paying less for the school levy.
Jorgensen went on to explain that the state determines all but a few items on the budget. He said that the Washington district is in a trend of increasing enrollment and increasing valuation. He also said the district’s finances  have greatly improved over the last five years. He said the state average tax levy for school districts is $14.02 per $1,000 of taxable value.
When asked if the district had considered continuing with a higher tax rate and paying off the bonds used to build the new high school, Jorgensen said that the state prescribes most of the items on the budget and that districts didn’t have the option of keeping money for additional expenses. He said that districts are forbidden from using property tax money to pay for construction without a bond referendum. Washington High School was built with money from projected revenues from sales tax, and no property tax was used.
Jorgensen said while the numbers are formula-based from the state, he believes many of the decisions the district has made have impacted the amount of decline in the levy.
“I was anticipating or hoping the levy would decrease about 25 cents, but it is even better than that,” Jorgensen said. “We are very pleased.”

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