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Hettinger School Board opts for more property tax funding

The Hettinger School Board unanimously approved an increased property tax levy of 141.3 mills, a hike of 11.95 percent or 15.08 mills for the 2012-13 school year, during a public meeting Wednesday at Hettinger Public School.

The new levy will amount to about $68 more on property taxes for a homeowner with a house valued at $100,000, according to a handout made available at the meeting.

Commercial property valued at $200,000 will see a $150.80 increase in annual taxes.

Farmland valued at $100,000 will see a $75.40 rise in annual taxes under the approved increase.

In total, the increase is expected to bring in $39,975 for the district this school year.

Superintendent Adam Hill, who has held the position for a few weeks, said after the meeting that he did not want to have to ask the public for an increase in school tax dollars.

"We did see a jump in our enrollment this year by 34 percent, but funding for schools is a year behind, so hopefully we'll see more funding next year," he said.

The school's business manager said the district's main source of funding for the general fund is property tax dollars.

He explained that if the tax increase was not approved, the school district would have had a $190,000 budget deficit to deal with.

On the plus side for the following school year, the district's student enrollment is up from last year.

During the 2011-12 school year, Hettinger Public Schools had a K-12 total enrollment of 146 students with a total of 67 students in grades nine through 12.

This year, the school district has a total enrollment of 280 students, which will help with state funding next year, since next year's funding will be based on the current year's enrollment.

Understanding that the district needs funding, Hettinger resident Larry Slater, who raises cattle, said his concern is that the price of everything is increasing and he would have liked to see the school district hold off on an increase in taxes.

"I'm concerned because hay costs more to buy now too and it costs me more to make a living, and it's raising cattle this year is already a tough business," he said. "I would like to see the Legislature step in and do something about school funding."

Slater suggested that there might have been ways for the district to cutback and save money.

"I also think the school district should have held the line with teacher's wages. I did not see the board try to save money in that case," he said. "Raising taxes can't keep going on."

Hill said that HSD's teaching staff salaries are 84 percent of the state average, so freezing the teaching staff's wages was not the best option for the district either.

The state aid distribution allocated to Hettinger Public Schools for the 2012-13 school year is $1.3 million. That figure is up from $1.28 million that the district received during the 2011-12 school year.