School Districts across the state will be putting property tax relief as a top priority for the upcoming legislative session. The high cost of school levies in many districts has created an educational opportunity gap for too many students.
Currently, when voters approve a school levy, the cost they will pay through property taxes is based on the property wealth of the school district. Without commercial or industrial development to expands the tax base and lower the cost for all, the tax burden falls quite heavily on the home or small business owners.
The state established an equalization program decades ago where the state paid a portion of voter-approved levies in low property wealth districts. However, equalization funding has not keep up with inflation. Now, taxpayers in low property wealth districts, such as Delano, Rockford, St. Michael-Albertville and Elk River, can pay significantly more to provide the same funding for their students than similar taxpayers in high property wealth districts.
This inequity in funding creates disparities in educational opportunities. Students in many low property wealth districts are at a distinct disadvantage when they compete for college and career opportunities with students that are better funded.
Therefore, the Legislature and Governor need to increase the funding for equalization, which will reduce property taxes in low property wealth school districts. Although increased equalization does not provide any new funding for school districts, it may make it easier for taxpayers to support future school levies.
We urge our residents to get informed and to contact your local legislators and the governor’s office to once and for all address the inequities in the funding formulas across the State of Minnesota. When the legislature and governor are looking for ways to reduce taxes, this would be a good place to start.
Increased funding for equalization would provide immediate property tax relief and, in the process, make the education funding system more equitable for all students. Our goal is equitable school funding to support high quality schools for all children no matter the zip code.
Matt Schoen, Paul Durand, Ann Marie Foucault and Bruce Watkins
Superintendents – Delano, Rockford Area, STMA and ISD 728 (Elk River Area) Schools