Alexandria School District taxpayers should be getting some tax relief as the district’s preliminary property tax levy is going down.

“There’s a decrease of $52,620 from last year,” said Trevor Peterson, director of business services. “That’s good news for taxpayers.”

At the Monday, Sept. 27, meeting, school board members approved the 2022 proposed preliminary levy of $16.2 million, which is a decrease of about 0.32%.

The taxes paid in 2022 will affect the school district’s 2022-2023 fiscal year.

Superintendent Rick Sansted complimented Peterson for staying on top of all the updates coming from the Minnesota Department of Education and thanked him for all his work on putting the levy information together.

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“I know it’s challenging,” Sansted said to Peterson, “so thank you.”

The Minnesota Department of Education figures out the levy limitations for each school district based on current legislation and formulas. The school board can then approve levy amounts up to, but not exceeding, the limits that are established by the state.

Peterson also talked about the voter-approved levy that’s in its third year. The phased-in operating levy represents an increase of $393,695 with the use of lease levy authority for the additions at Discovery Middle School and the Early Education Center representing an increase of $682,678.

Those two funding categories combine for an increase of about $1.08 million while all other categories total a decrease of $1.128 million. Approximately 40% of the levy is for debt issuance of building bonds, while 3.9% is for community service. The remaining $56.1% – roughly $9.1 million – is for the general fund.

The final levy, which will be approved at the December school board meeting, can be less than the preliminary levy but it cannot be increased as the school board approved the maximum amount.

Peterson told the school board members that they could either set a specific amount or approve the maximum. He also noted setting the maximum amount has been a past practice and that is what his recommendation was.

The board agreed and approved the maximum amount, which was the 0.32% decrease. The December meeting will also include the Truth in Taxation presentation and the board will set the final levy.

Mask debate

During the public comment period of the meeting, 12 people got up and addressed the school board. The majority were concerned parents who are against the school district’s mask mandates and who also have concerns with how students are being treated if they are not masked or not vaccinated.

Some said they were concerned with a lack of transparency from the school district on all levels and accused the district of hiding information for not providing emails between school board members and administrators regarding COVID-19.

Those who spoke feel the district needs to lift the mandate and that all students should be treated fairly when it comes to quarantining. They said masks are harmful to the mental well-being of children and that parents should have a choice whether their child should wear a mask or not.

Here are some of the comments made by those who spoke vehemently against masks:

“They are to purely make adults feel safer.”

“They are not effective.”

“Children are not at risk for COVID.”

“Masks do not prevent disease.”

“Masks are harmful.”

“It’s segregation all over again, only it’s not color but vaccinations.”

“Why not give parents a choice? I understand the risks.”

“We elected the seven of you to make decisions and all seven of you should make decisions. I ask you to resign if you can’t make those decisions.”

“You are here to represent us. Do your job, we’re not asking you to give up a limb.”

“This is biowarfare we are in.”

“Are you being financially blackmailed for the mask mandates?”

“Do what’s best for parents and kids, not what’s best for the district politically.”

“We were told to reach out but our voices are not heard, there’s no communication. We were given false hope.”

“I’m a mad mom. I’m sad, I am mad and I am completely disheartened. We used to be proud of District 206. We’re not proud anymore.”

There were a couple of teachers who also got up and spoke. One said teachers are there to do the job of teaching kids and that the kids are doing a great job.

Another one said she had opened an email with information about a student who had died from complications of COVID and that she saw the faces of the kids in the room when she had to explain the loss.

“That student wasn’t a statistic,” the teacher said, adding that the student who died had a life and a name and that the student was a person. She said she didn’t want to open anymore emails and she doesn’t want to see the list of names grow of those who have died from COVID.

The teacher told the school board members she was sorry that their job had turned political and that she applauded them all for doing what they could for public education and for supporting the teachers in the district.