To invest in something is a powerful thing. We invest our time, often to our jobs, as well as to our families and activities we find enjoyable. We invest our talents in a variety of personal and professional capacities. We invest our finances into our daily needs, long-term retirement goals, kids’ college funds, and also into organizations to help further their mission and purpose. It may not seem like it, but we invest in our schools similarly to how we invest in other areas of our lives through our income and property tax systems.
As the saying goes, there are two things certain in life: death and taxes. For me, this quote (although comical) doesn’t evoke an emotion of excitement or fulfillment, but rather one of doom and gloom. I suspect this is because we don’t necessarily relate our obligation to pay taxes to the very mission it is designed to fulfill: investing back into our community.
The Pequot Lakes School District has a unique tax base that compares with only a handful of other districts in the state. It’s not the total value of our tax base that’s different, but rather the breakdown of property classifications that is unique. Our tax base consists of more than fifty percent seasonal recreational properties. As a community, we experience a large influx of seasonal residents who spend time in our community each summer. However, due to the design of our property tax system, having a greater seasonal tax base doesn’t always equal additional revenue for a school district. Tax revenue from seasonal recreational properties is not included in levies that fund operational expenses.
There are many factors that determine a school district levy each year. We have smaller levy categories that all roll up into one larger levy. This larger levy is spread among properties in the district, and appears as one or two line items on your property tax statement. Each year, our School Board must weigh what the impact of the District’s overall levy will have on its taxpayers. Maintaining a steady, predictable levy is very important to our Board, and for 2017 our District lowered its overall levy by 2.5% from the prior year.
On a statewide basis, Pequot Lakes Schools has historically been in the bottom five percent of general education funding aid per pupil. In other words, 95% of the districts in Minnesota receive more funding per student than we do. Because we receive less funding and less property tax revenues due to our high seasonal tax base, we must work even harder to bring in the resources we need to continue to build our educational programs in the most efficient way possible.
Our School Board has the sizeable task of setting goals and priorities that help guide the District’s mission. Furthering a strategic direction in any organization requires a significant investment. If our goal is to develop rigorous personalized learning plans unique to each student to prepare them for the global workplace of tomorrow, we have to make the conscious decision to invest time, talent and resources in order to achieve this goal. In education, the funding we receive drives the resources we have, and the resources we have provide opportunities for our youth. We invite all members of our community to be a part of the discussion on how we cultivate these opportunities. Creating an environment that allows the next generation of future philosophers, civic leaders, mechanics, artists, entrepreneurs and educators to thrive and grow is the way in which our District invests back into the greater Pequot Lakes community.
-- Jenny Max, Business Manager