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Hamilton taxpayers to see smaller increase

When Hamilton School District voters went to the polls last November, they expected to be voting themselves a $50 increase for each $100,000 of property they owned to pay for new facilities at Hamilton High School and Marcy Elementary School. Instead, taxes will increase $36 for each $100,000 of property and that amount includes all spending for 2003-04 along with the referendum projects.

The news for taxpayers came Oct. 20 as Hamilton School Board members approved a $36.79 million budget that includes a mil rate of $11.40 per $1,000 of property. The owner of a $100,000 home would pay $1,140 in school taxes. The mil rate is a welcome surprise for Hamilton taxpayers because school officials had predicted that their mil rate would increase 50 cents to cover the cost of the new facilities in addition to regular cost-of-living increases for the 2003-04 budget. At the district’s Annual Meeting in July, voters approved a mil rate that was expected to be $11.67 per $1,000 of property.

The total budget increased 4.55 percent — due in part to the cost of educating more students. The district is responsible to educate an additional 77 students in 2003-04 compared to 2002-03. Even though enrollment increased significantly, state aid increased by less than one percent. The lower-than-expected mil rate is attributable to community growth and higher property values that spread school costs over more and higher-valued properties. The district’s equalized valuation increased by 9.1 percent in the past year.

The new net tax levy — the portion of the budget paid by local taxpayers — increased to $22.25 million from $19.75 million in 2002-03. Debt service increased from $2.35 million in 2002-03 to $3.32 million in 2003-04.

Each October, the School Board must adopt the budget, certify the tax levy and establish the tax rate after the Department of Revenue determines property values in the district. Tax bills are sent to property owners in December.