Farmers set to see bigger savings on school building levy

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By Reed Anfinson
Swift County Monitor-News

In their recent legislative session, Minnesota lawmakers continued efforts to help out farmers who are burdened with an inordinate amount of property when school districts pass building levies.

They have also helped rural school districts that find it increasingly difficult to pass much-needed building levies to upgrade their schools, but face stiff opposition because of the burden farmland owners and a poor agricultural economy.

Benson Public School’s $26.3 million building bond levy that passed last August was helped by a law passed by the Minnesota Legislature in 2017. The law provided for the state to pick up $4 of every $10 in additional property tax on farmland when a school district passed a building levy.

For the Benson school’s levy, the new tax credit meant the state would contribute $11 million toward the project when the interest payments are counted in. In all, the state will pick up 28 percent of the cost of the building project through the credit over its 20-year financing period. That amount was based on a 40-percent share.
Now the state is set to take on an even greater share of the levy for farmers.

For taxes paid in 2020, the state’s share will increase to 50 percent and in pay 2021 it will increase to 55 percent, Supt. Dennis Laumeyer said at the board of education’s June 17 meeting. That credit goes to 60 percent in 2022 and 70 percent in 2023.

In District 777, rural landowners represent 74.72 percent of the school’s building bond levy tax base, Laumeyer said.  So the state picks up a big chunk of the annual payment at $567,000 due to the 40 percent tax credit.

With the 50 percent tax credit, that share goes up to $713,000 annually and at 55 percent it goes to $786,000. “If it gets to 70 percent, it will be almost $1 million that the state will pick up toward our school bond,” Laumeyer said.

The agriculture homestead value averages $6,000 for an estimated market value in the school district, Laumeyer told the school board. Under the new state law, the farmer’s share for non-homestead on a $6,000 value will go from $4.89 to $2.45 an acre, he said. “It will make a big difference for our landowners.” Laumeyer said...

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