The big question: It remains to be seen if voters will say ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ to extension of property taxPublished 11:30am Monday, October 29, 2012
The $6.27 million Outdoor Facility Bond Referendum that would provide the school with new practice fields, tennis courts, an environmental learning center and a stadium complex will be decided Nov. 6, and the impact to property taxes is the question on the minds of many voters.
“We’re trying our best to move our district forward and address the long-term needs in a cost-effective manner,” said District 544 Superintendent Jerry Ness.
The 1994 bond referendum to build the high school science wing will be paid off in 2014. If passed, the new bond referendum would act as a 20-year extension, expiring in 2034.
According to the most recently updated estimates generated by the Otter Tail County auditor’s office, a Fergus Falls resident with a $100,000 home is paying $294 per year in school property taxes. When the 1994 bond referendum is paid off, the same resident would pay $271 if the new bond referendum fails. If it passes, however, that resident would pay about $291 annually.
“We’re asking for taxpayers’ help,” said Ness. “It’s an opportune time. One bond is going out, and another one could start at a lower rate, and we could get all of these things even at that lower rate.”
The difference between the referendum passing and failing would be about $1.60 per month for a resident with a $100,000 home.
When compared to schools in the surrounding areas and cities of a similar size, school tax in Fergus Falls lands right in the middle.
“We’re about average and trying to be very reasonable,” said Ness.
On the low end, a Perham resident with a $100,000 home pays about $113 per year in school property taxes. On the high end, that same home in Rothsay would require $887 annually in taxes for the school.
Of the 15 schools evaluated, the average annual school property tax on a $100,000 home is $336.
Bemidji and Fergus Falls have very similar school property tax rates, and Bemidji public schools superintendent James Hess said although the rates are similar, the two school districts have much different needs and require voter help for very different reasons.
“It’s important, though, as a community that you do the best you can for your kids,” he said. “You have them for such a short period of time, and you need to give them every opportunity you can afford, even if that’s school fields for athletic competitions and band competitions. You want your kids to have pride in them.”
A major construction project turned the former middle school into Kennedy Secondary School in 2010, and Ness said he sees the outdoor facilities upgrade as the final step to the project.
“To complete our projects, we want to have help from the voters so that we have quality outdoor facilities just like we have quality indoor facilities,” he said.
The numbers provided in the story, graph and table are the most up-to-date estimates available. Figures provided previously by The Daily Journal and the school may be different because they were calculated several months ago.