The Waconia School Board certified the school district’s 2022 tax levy and reviewed ISD 110’s financial picture at its Dec. 13 meeting.

The levy certification and “truth in taxation” public hearing is required annually by state law to share information about school funding coming from district taxpayers for the next year. The state also sets formulas to determine revenues, sets tax policy for local schools and establishes a maximum authorized property tax levy.

The proposed local tax levy for 2022 amounts to just over $19 million for Waconia Public Schools. That’s about $531,000 more than 2021, or a 2.86 percent increase.

About $9.5 million will go to the district’s general fund, $9.2 million to debt service funds, and $296,000 to the community education fund.

The school district’s fiscal year coincides with the school year, running July 1 through June 30, so 2022 taxes won’t provide additional revenue until the 2022-2023 school budget year, according to Finance Director Todd Swanson. The budget process for next school year will start in January and the budget will be adopted in June 2022.

State funding accounts for about 80 percent of most public schools’ general expenses, and the Waconia school district’s total budget for the current year amounts to $64.5 million. About $48.5 million of that is in the general fund, the bulk of which goes to teacher salaries and benefits, also educational services, supplies and equipment. Nearly $9.4 million is for debt service, $3.4 million for food service, about $3.1 for community education, and the remainder in other funds, such as internal expenses, building construction and trusts. No major construction projects are planned this year or next.

Meanwhile, the district continues to make inroads on reducing its operating debt as reflected in a financial audit review that was also part of last week’s school board meeting. As reported previously, the debt condition was first identified in 2019 driven largely by a special education funding gap due to a change in the state’s funding formula.

The gains come from earlier budget reductions and generally flat budgets as required by the district’s statutory operating debt recovery plan, plus an influx of additional revenues from a voter-approved operating levy in 2020.

As of June 30, 2021, the district’s general fund balance stood at a negative $4.75 million, down from $6.4 million at the end of its 2019 fiscal year, $6.0 million at the end of 2020. The fund balance is projected at negative $3.6 million by June 30, 2022, and the debt could be erased entirely in the next 2-3 years, according to Swanson, depending a factors such as state funding and district employee contract settlements.

Superintendent Pat Devine called the past year “the most complex budget year ever” because of impacts of the lingering COVID-19 virus, including unanticipated expenses and uncertain relief funding. Waconia typically is compensated less than other districts in federal and state funding formulas. Still, Devine notes, the latest audit shows District 110 just $40,000 off from its unassigned fund balance, while many other districts have had to dip into fund balances to cover COVID-19 costs.

Load comments