There is a little bit of controversy next door in Crete.
The Crete Public School Board has proposed a $33 million bond referendum, set for a mail-in vote ending Sept. 10. The $33 million in new spending would fund what is being billed as Crete Schools "most comprehensive overhaul" in district history.
Crete School's proposed $33 million loan from the taxpayers makes Dorchester's $4 million bonded project back in 2007-08 -- for the new DPS K-12 school building -- look like a bargain. Consider that farmers along with middle-class and upper-class homeowners will pay the bulk of the Crete district's increase in spending. But as was the case for Dorchester in 2007, local voters will decide what is the best course is for their school and their wallets.
A recent story in The Crete News reported that if the $33 million bond measure is passed, property owners residing in the Crete school district will see their levy increase from 1.15% to 1.34% (about 17%).
The Crete News story also compares levy rates of surrounding schools, including Wilber and Friend. But the story fails to use Dorchester's levy rate in the comparison. We don't know if this was intentional, but we do find it a little odd since Dorchester Public School district offers the lowest levy rate in the county. (Several experts say Dorchester's levy rate is commendable considering the quality of education, brand new facilities, top-notch faculty and small class sizes that Dorchester offers.)
Here are the current school district levy rates in Saline County and nearby districts:
CRETE PUBLIC SCHOOLS: 1.1531% (which would go to 1.34% if the Sept. 10 bond passes)
DORCHESTER PUBLIC SCHOOLS: 1.1171%
FRIEND PUBLIC SCHOOLS: 1.2856%
WILBER-CLATONIA PUBLIC SCHOOLS: 1.1246%
MILFORD PUBLIC SCHOOLS: 1.0494%
MERIDIAN PUBLIC SCHOOLS: 1.1201%
EXETER-MILLIGAN PUBLIC SCHOOLS: 0.9678%
Under 1998 state law, all political subdivisions with authority to levy a property tax must operate under levy limits. For every $100 of taxable value on a property, school districts are limited to a $1.05 levy. However, districts are excluded from this limitation for bonded indebtedness for projects approved by the voters.
School districts are also limited in their growth in general fund expenditures to no more than a rate between 2.5% and 4.5%, based on location. Exceptions to this rule apply.