Douglas County: Mill Rate Down But Property Taxes Could Still Go Up
The news for Douglas County property tax payers is mixed - depending on how you want to look at it. On one hand, the school levy is down - which on the surface would translate into a lower tax bill at the end of the year; but the reality is a little more complicated than that.
At their Committee of the Whole meeting on November 1, the Superior School Board acted in two ways that directly impact tax payers: They voted to approve the district's budget for 2021-2022; at the same time, they set the tax levy for the upcoming tax year.
That levy is down from last year. According to an article in the Superior Telegram [firewall]:
"[t]hey set the general fund budget of $56.6 million. Additional expenditures anticipated in the budget include $685,190 for prior service liability, $7.5 million toward the debt service fund, $106,532 for the community education fund and nearly $3 million for the food service fund."
To meet those expenses, the board set and approved the tax levy of $22.5 million. That dollar amount translates into an estimated mill rate of $8.82 - which is down 78 cents from last years' mill rate.
The big picture look at the Superior School District's financial situation is positive. While the district did lose students from last year - declining by 96 students total, summer school numbers grew; total enrollees for 2021 summer school was up by 107 students.
Meanwhile, cash reserves grew in a healthy manner. School officials "recommend that districts have unassigned cash reserves between 25-33%, which translates to about three to four months of cash on hand". Superiors cash reserves fall within that range:
"For the third year in a row, the district's cash reserves grew. At the end of the fiscal year, Superior's 2020-2021 fund balance is expected to be nearly $13.7 million, which is 25% of the district's operating expenses."
That positive growth for the cash reserves is something that the district is aiming for. Superior School District Administrator Amy Starecki "told the board that increasing the fun balance is something the district has been working on". In 2018-2019, that fund balance reserve was 21%, it increased to "nearly 24%" in 2019-2020. This years 25% represents a positive trend for the district.
All of that said - even with the lower tax levy, officials are quick to point out this this won't necessarily translate in to a lower tax bill for property owners. The current real estate market has property values up overall. "[o]verall property valuation in Douglas County increased by 7.9%, more than the state average of 7% and double last years' increase of 3.97%."