NB superintendent recommends going back to five-day school week

As a result of the State Legislature’s recent decision to give school boards more authority to levy money from taxpayers, North Branch Area Public Schools Superintendent Deb Henton is recommending the district go back to a five-day school week.

The district has already been approved for another four-day school week for next year, so the change back to the five-day week likely wouldn’t come until the 2014-15 school year.

The changes made by the Legislature to the school funding formula allow for the district to levy an additional $300 per pupil unit and possibly combine that with another $212 per pupil unit in what was dubbed a “location equity index.”

NBAPS Finance Director Randi Johnson explained at the Thursday School Board meeting that the location equity index is based upon where a student lives.

She said a district has to have at least 2,000 students to be eligible for the index, and some metro districts are eligible for about double what districts about the size of North Branch would end up receiving.

“Small, rural districts won’t get that,” she said.

Johnson, who explained at the last school board meeting that the new formula is more equitable than past operating levies the board has pursued because it spreads more of the tax burden across the state instead of just on local property-tax payers, also told the board what the impact would be on an average-priced home in North Branch. She noted someone who owns a house valued at approximately $166,000 would see about a $111 increase in the school district portion of his or her property taxes if the school board chose to levy the maximum amount of $512.

Johnson also said the decision by the Legislature allows the district to levy those funds without a voter-approved referendum.

“So about a $10 increase per month on $166,000 — that potentially may bring us back to a five-day school week?” School Board Member Tim MacMillan asked.

“That would be absolutely correct,” Henton said, noting she’s asking the school board to approve the $512 per pupil unit next month. “I’m advising you to go back to a five-day school week.”

She added that some people don’t like the school board’s new authority to levy more money from taxpayers, but the ability to secure more money in that fashion is the best option the school district has had in years.

“You may not like that expanded job description you have now, and some of the people in this room may not like that you have that expanded job description,” she said to the school board. “Maybe that wasn’t the perfect solution, but it’s bringing the bottom up and it’s giving us options again for our kids. That’s why we’re here, for the kids.”


Residents prompt board to address athletic facilities

During the public comment portion of the meeting, numerous residents spoke, all asking the school board to address various aspects of athletics and parent involvement in sports.

“Many family members are willing and have tried to offer their talents for various functions within the school district, with limited success,” resident Jen Fairbanks said. “Many parents want to be more than the person writing the activities check.”

She noted that if the school district is more accommodating to parents, much could be achieved.

“Our focus tonight is athletics, but we’re willing to partner with the school district on many other activities,” she said. “Activities are what the community and visitors to the area see. We want them to know that we have pride in our schools, our programs and our kids.”

Resident Alice Peterson said there are upgrades that could be made to enhance the district’s sports facilities at a reasonable cost.

“Our gym floors are in need of repair and our scoreboard light bulbs need to be replaced, she said.  “We could partner with the schools make a facility something that we could all be proud of.”

She added, “There are many community members willing to volunteer and help with maintenance, specifically with baseball, soccer and the various soccer fields. You could also consider establishing work programs to complete the activity with minimal expense. Various nonprofit groups are always looking for ways to earn a little extra money.”

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