Forest Lake Area School Board members discussed and voted to approve the budget for the 2021 calendar year during its truth and taxation meeting and regular board meeting on Dec. 3. 

The district’s director of business services, Larry Martini, gave a presentation on the budget for the 2021 year to board members and Superintendent Steve Massey. At the start of the presentation, Martini discussed how the school district planned accordingly for student enrollment and the budget for last year despite coronavirus-related concerns. 

“I believe as a professional that Forest Lake’s enrollment projections were spot on,” Martini said. “We actually lost less students than we budgeted for, which was not the experience of most public school districts. So for many, the adopted budget needs to be modified in a great amount as a result in change of operations for the pandemic and other mitigating aspects, but for Forest Lake Area Schools we’ve really done well with budget and so far we have an increase in revenue pending.” 

The current budget shows the district has spent more than it made in the past year. This was mainly due to a $3,450,000 increase in the construction category of the districtwide budget. Overall the amount of revenue received by the district was $96,432,213 and the total amount of expenditures was $99,811,767. 

Martini then broke down what the budget for the 2020-21 school year would be used for: 58.6% of funds will be used for salaries and wages, 22.2% on employee benefits, 10.4% on purchased services, 6.1% on capital expenditures, and 2.5% on supplies and materials, 0.3% on debt services, and 0.1% on other expenditures. 

Martini also went on to discuss the district’s levy and what’s changed from last year. The levy for 2020 was set at $28,137,913 and for 2021 it will be set at $28,943,855. This is an $805,942 increase, or 2.9%. 

Multiple things can affect taxes, according to Martini, including changes in the value of an individual property, changes in the total value of property within the district, increases or decreases in levy amounts caused by changes in state funding formulas, local needs and costs, voter-approved referendums, and other factors. 

Martini brought up what property taxes will look like for residents with a model for the city of Forest Lake. For the second straight year, school-district related taxes will be less than the year prior. It is estimated that residents will pay $1,003 on a homestead valued at $250,000 for the year 2021 compared to $1,024 in 2020. 

It is also estimated that those who own commercial property that is valued at $1 million will pay $4,723 for the year 2021; this is a $6 decrease from the year prior. 

During the public comment section of the hearing, Martini noted there has not been a public comment submitted during the school board’s annual truth in taxation hearing for the past eight years.  

“I think it’s a testament to the good work that’s being done to make sure that taxes stay in check, which is important to everybody,” said Jeff Peterson, school board president. 

In the district’s board meeting on Dec. 3, the school board voted unanimously to certify 2020 property taxes payable in 2021.

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