Overall Dist. 51 mill levy to drop

The School District 51 Board of Education on Thursday certified the mill levy rates that will be used for 2009 property tax collection. The board acted four days before a state deadline.

The board set the levy for its general fund at 28.9 mills.

The levy for bond redemption, including the bond passed by voters in 2004, dropped from 9.3 mills to 7.2 mills.

The total mill levy dropped from 38.35 mills for the 2007-08 budget year to 36.17 mills for 2008-09, or about 6 percent, board President Leslie Kiesler said.

“This year’s certification is significant for local taxpayers and will decrease the amount of property tax an individual business or homeowner will pay this year toward District 51,” Kiesler said.

The mill levy certification is based on a $1.67 billion assessed valuation of property within the boundaries of District 51.

Kiesler said the overall reduction is the result of new construction in the district that increased the property taxes collected. But as collected taxes increase, Kiesler said, the proportion each taxpayer pays is decreased.

The certification comes after the Colorado Department of Education requested that the Colorado Supreme Court speed up its decision in a lawsuit filed by Mesa County
Commissioners. The lawsuit alleged that a 2007 law that froze school district mill levies was an unconstitutional tax hike.

The law prevented school boards from decreasing mill levies to make up for increased property valuation in their districts.

The law was held to be unconstitutional in a May ruling in state District Court, but that ruling was appealed.

The state Supreme Court said it would not speed up its ruling. With a Dec. 15 deadline looming for school districts, the court directed districts to follow the 2007 law.

The mill levy freeze resulted in an additional $1.8 million to the district in 2007-08, according to 2008 district financial audits.

Board member Ron Rowley said the freeze affected only the general fund mill levy, which was unchanged for the 2008-09 fiscal year.

The general fund mill levy is used to cover district operating expenses. The levy has decreased since 1998, when it was 40 mills, according to the district’s 2008 financial audits.

Mike Nelson, a private accountant who provided the audit, said the 2008 general fund revenue for District 51 exceeded expenditures by more than $100,000, or 5.6 percent, which is close to the district’s 6 percent fund balance goal.

“There are no budget violations,” Nelson said. “The district is still in a strong financial position.”


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