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Carlton School Board certifies 6% tax levy decrease

The board also learned more about enrollment trends during an audit presentation, which showed resident students leaving the district at a five-year high and the number of nonresident students coming into Carlton at a five-year low.

File: Carlton High School
Carlton High School Katie Rohman / 2019 file / Pine Journal
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CARLTON — The Carlton School Board voted unanimously to certify its 2023 tax levy to the maximum allowed by the state during its Monday, Dec. 19, meeting at Carlton High School.

The vote was preceded by a district budget presentation by CPA, finance and funding specialist Jennifer Smith of Arrowhead Regional Computing Consortium during the board’s Truth in Taxation meeting.

Smith said the payable 2023 levy amount of $1,516,622 marks a $99,245.02 (6.14%) decrease from last year’s levy of $1,615,867.94, which accounted for 25% of the district’s annual revenue.

District revenue for this year sits at $6,661,125, of which 23% comprises the levy. Additional revenue sources include state and federal funding along with other local sources. State sources occupy the largest portion of district revenue at $3,892,535 (58.44%), which comes from general education aid.

Audit provides insight on enrollment trends

Following a financial statement from BerganKDV representative Matt Mayer, the Carlton School Board voted unanimously to approve its 2022 audit at Monday’s meeting.

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The district received an unmodified opinion from its financial audit report, which means all financial reports were presented fairly and in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. The report did include a finding for lack of segregation of duties, which is common for districts of Carlton’s size.

“We like to get four different touches on every transaction that occurs to safeguard your assets and to ensure accurate financial reporting, and with a small staff that’s just not feasible,” Mayer said. ”... So we’re going to live with that particular finding.”

Later in the presentation, the district’s trend of declining average daily membership dating back to 2018 was highlighted, as the total adjusted pupil unit count for 2022 was 415.17, down from 507.47 five years earlier.

The number of resident students going elsewhere in 2022 at 433.59 was also a five-year high, while non-resident students coming in was at a five-year low at 144.69. The drop in enrollment translated to a five-year low in state revenue in 2022 at $3,817,362 from $4,268,678 in 2018. Federal revenue through coronavirus relief funding and other sources has been the district’s "saving grace," according to Mayer.

“Revenue has been on the decline because enrollment has been on the decline, and if your main revenue stream is the general education aid per pupil funding, that’s going to pose some challenges for you,” Mayer said.

Carlton Superintendent John Engstrom said the way to reverse these trends will likely start at the elementary school level at South Terrace.

“That’s kind of the drum I’ve been beating for basically the time I’ve been here. We have to find a way to get that trend stemmed and reversed,” Engstrom said. “I do really believe that the way to go about that is to build from the ground up and by ground up I mean (at) South Terrace.”

The board will reconvene for a special organization meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 3 at Carlton High School.

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Related Topics: CARLTON SCHOOLS
Jake Przytarski is a reporter for the Cloquet Pine Journal covering a mix of news and sports.
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