258 eyes tax hike

By RICHARD LUKEN
Register Reporter

HUMBOLDT — Cuts in state aid mean Humboldt-USD 258 taxpayers likely will have a slightly larger tax bill for the upcoming school year.
Board of Education members approved for publication Monday a $7.6 million spending plan supported in large part by an ad valorem tax levy of about 63.5 mills, or an increase of 3 mills from 2008-09.
The tax hike means the owner of a $100,000 home would pay about $730 in property taxes, an increase of $35 from the previous year. That figure does not include taxes for the county, city or township or Allen County Community College.
Balancing the budget meant making up a difference of more than $300,000 from anticipated expenses and revenues.
Part of the shortfall was made up by removing five teaching positions, three of which were made possible because of retirements, while two teachers were released from their contracts.
“We had several things working against us this year,” Superintendent of Schools Bob Heigele told the Register, including retroactive cuts in state aid and higher-than-expected utility costs.
The state funding cuts were particularly harmful because board members had approved two years ago pay raises of about 3 percent for teachers for the upcoming year.
“That was when legislators said they were going to take $58 (per pupil) and put it in a ‘lock box,’” Heigele said. “We approved a two-year agreement with that in mind. Now the state has unlocked that box.”
The tax hike comes from higher levies for the school’s Local Options Budget, increasing from 15.7 mills to 18.3, and its capital outlay fund, going from 3.964 mills to about 5.
Those measures will bring in a combined $160,000, Heigele said.
Capital outlay funds must be used on capital projects or equipment only, while LOB funds can be spent on such items as salaries or operations costs.
The vote in favor of the higher mill levy passed 6-1, Dan Weilert opposed.
Tax levies for the district’s general fund (20 mills), bond and interest payment, 20.1 mills and the Humboldt Recreation Commission (2.5 mills) are unchanged from last year.
Board members set a public hearing for 7:30 p.m. Aug. 10 for patrons to discuss the spending plan. The budget must be presented to the County Clerk’s office by Aug. 28.