The Esko School District Board unanimously approved a 15% decrease to its 2021 levy following its truth in taxation hearing Monday, Dec. 21. The public meeting was available via Zoom and was attended by a couple of members of the public.

The decrease for the 2021 fiscal year compared to the 2020 FY, said Superintendent Aaron Fischer, is due primarily to a big drop in the district's net tax capacity other category.

"When we did our HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system upgrades, one of the things we ran into was a lot of asbestos in the building," Fischer said. "That needed to be removed and the cost for that was put into this levy area. It's finally coming off the levy this year, which is why we see that big decrease.

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The approximately $370,000 decrease brings the total levy to $2.1 million — about 13% of the district’s $14 million total budget. State, federal and other local sources make up the other 87% of the budget.

Approximately 23% of the levy is considered voter-approved and will go towards things voters already agreed to fund, such as the football field and track facility complex.

Fischer also presented the fiscal year 2020 budget comparison. In the most used fund, the general fund, the district had a revenue of $12.5 million and expenses totaled $12.4 million.

The transportation fund had a deficit of $347,000, which Fischer explained was a "planned expenditure."

"We'd been saving money in this fund for a number of years to complete a bus garage project," Fischer said. "We upgraded the bus garages this year so that was an expected expenditure."

Janet Halonen, the school district's business manager, told listeners that the budget was prepared in October.

"At that time, we didn't know the full ramifications of COVID-19. So this will have to be adjusted once we know when we're back in session, in person," Halonen said. "It will likely have an impact on things like substitutes, utility usages and supplies."

After the was presented to the public, board members later voted unanimously in the regular school board meeting to approve the levy.