ROCHESTER, Minn. – The Rochester School Board voted Tuesday to approve a $4.4 million tax increase for next year. The increase would bring the budget from $49.5 million to $53.9 million, and translates to about a $160 per student increase. It is the maximum amount school boards are allowed to levy without needing voter approval, per state law.
Superintendent Michael Muñoz says they have used that levy option in past years but opted not to for the current school year because of the referendum, which was passed last fall. He says as the district looks at financial projections, they felt the increase was needed.
“We had an increase of a little over 50 teachers that we didn’t project that we’d have to add that many, some of them had to do we the opening of CTECH. We had an increase of over 300 students so that required some additional staff,” Muñoz explains. “You try to do long-range projections and try to predict what you can, but there’s some things that come up that you can’t account for.”
Muñoz says that the increase will help the district avoid major reductions for the next few years.
“With the growing community, that tax base is going to be spread out amongst more people. So, even though it’s about a 9% increase for us, the individual tax payer is not going to see a 9% increase in their property taxes for the school portion of that,” he explains.
With 80% of funding coming from the state, the board plans to look at projections for the next five years or so during their January meeting to see what the budget would look like at a 2%, 1% and if there’s no increase in state funding.