Board takes state up on new levy authority

RC school board approves $300 per student levy thanks to Legislature allowing such authority without voter approval

The Rush City School Board on July 18 approved a resolution authorizing a board-approved levy of $300 per student for five years beginning with taxes payable in 2014.

Board members reviewed financial information prepared by Ehlers & Associates, the district’s financial consultant, showing the projected impact the levy would have on various property values and the revenue it would produce for district expenses.

A $300 per student levy would provide $301,980 in revenue, presented district business manager Laureen Frost, and it would increase property taxes by $58 per year for property valued at $150,000. Residential and commercial property would be taxed at the same rate, and agricultural property taxes would be based on the value of the house, garage and a single acre.

This year’s state Legislature gave local school boards the authority to levy up to $300 per student, including a formula to reduce the tax impact on property owners in property poor districts

For the Rush City school district, which is near the bottom of the funding scale among districts statewide, Ehlers estimated the state aid would cover 57 percent of the levy, while residents would cover the remaining 43 percent.

Prior to the board’s unanimous vote on the matter, Boardchair Stefanie Folkema thought a decision in August would give board members more time to discuss the specifics that warrant the extra funding.

However, some board members didn’t see it that way.

“We’ve got to take advantage of this state money,” Carol Cook said. “We’re running over a $600,000 deficit this year. We need this. I don’t see us making another decision later. We need to put it in force so we have those options.”

Justin Wood agreed, noting the board can approve the levy now and discuss the specifics later.

Scott Tryon added, “It does little to move us up on the funding scale. We are at the bottom. This a good way to sit down, have a meeting and discus our future.”

School lunch prices

The board agreed to raise the cost of lunch by 15 cents at both the elementary and high schools this coming school year, as the district continues its goal of offering more fruits, vegetables and other nutritious foods to students.

As a result, lunch will cost $2.25 at Jacobson Elementary and $2.40 at the high school. However, board members did agree to keep breakfast prices the same as last year.

Prior to their vote, board members reviewed a memo from the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Food and Nutrition Service, which addresses school lunch prices. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 requires school food authorities — that are participating in the National School Lunch Program — to ensure sufficient funds are provided in the school food service account for lunches served to students not eligible for free and reduced price meals.

Building security

The board agreed to pursue one of two options in reworking the front entryway for improved security at Jacobson Elementary School.

The action calls for removing and reinstalling the aluminum entry at an angle at a cost of $21,300. The front entrance at the high school is also being modified to improve building security.

In other news, the board:

• Learned that all school vehicles are certified for next year, following a recent bus inspection.

• Approved board member compensation at $45 per meeting with the exception of all day meetings, which will be paid at a rate of $90 per day. This, along with other fiscal, financial and legal matters, was part of the board’s organization process for fiscal year 2014.

• Approved the resignations of special education teacher Meghan Preissing and bus driver Stan Iskierka.

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