The Rush City School Board, in wanting to be sensitive to citizen taxpayers while adequately meeting district staffing, building, curriculum and technology needs, chose one of three options to increase the levy for 2015-16.
After reviewing levy increases of $150, $300 or $424 per student, the board on a 5-1 vote approved the option that means an increase of $300 per student over the prior year. Scott Tryon made the motion, seconded by Brenda Nessel, and they were joined by Teri Umbreit, Stefanie Folkema and Scott Anderson. Voting against was Matt Perreault.
Superintendent Vern Koepp said the board’s direction in adjusting the levy was necessary, since this projection is reported to the county in August. This is followed by the School Board setting the preliminary levy to the maximum in September. Board members then have the ability to reduce the levy at the time of certification in December.
Prior to the action, board members reviewed information from financial consultant Ehlers and Associates showing the projected impact of different levy amounts on various property values and the revenue each levy would produce. The current levy, at $300 per student, costs about $34 a year per $100,000 property value, with state equalization aid picking up about 61 percent of the levy.
Koepp said the additional $300 per student levy for the 2015-16 school year will cost about $59 a year per $100,000 property value or a total of $93 per year — the sum of the current levy of $34 and new levy of $59. State aid picks up almost half of the cost of the total levy.
Board members discussed the need to be sensitive to citizen tax obligations, while providing for district needs related to adequately staffing buildings, maintaining facilities and keeping current on curriculum and technology.
Commercial or industrial property is taxed at the same rate as residential property, and agriculture property is taxed on the house, garage and 1 acre to reflect the same rate as residential property. Seasonal recreational property will pay no taxes on this levy, district business manager Laureen Frost noted.
Last December, the School Board approved the 2014 property tax levy at $1.83 million, reflecting a 3.18 percent increase over the previous year. The levy amounted to a $56,353 increase following a decrease of 5 percent in 2013 and a decrease of 8 percent in 2012.
Tiger Club discontinued
Board members voted to discontinue the Tiger Club program for younger students at the end of August, though they agreed to revisit the issue down the road if the need arises.
Jacobson Elementary Principal Melody Tenhoff recommended the action due to the lack of kids enrolled and the after-school and summer day care program’s inability to sustain itself. With revenue falling short of expenditures in recent years, she noted, the program has been running deficits ranging from $6,000 to $9,000 in the past three years.
This will exhaust the fund balance for the program, Tenhoff added.
According to the district’s website, Tiger Club offers planned activities to keep students in kindergarten through sixth grade busy and active after school. Trained staff help with homework, get children involved in sports, arts and crafts, and plan community activities.
The after-school program cost is $8.50 per day, and full days are $22 a day. The one-time registration fee is $25 per family.
As for the schedule, the program operates from school dismissal until 6 p.m. on school days. Programming on non-school days and during the summer occur from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m., provided enough children need care on those days.
Yet the numbers have been low, as evident by the average attendance of five to seven children during the school year and 10-13 children during the summer, Tenhoff presented.
“The program doesn’t generate enough funds to support personnel, and we run it pretty bare bones,” she said, noting Tiger Club runs on comparable, affordable prices for families.
The director of the program recently took other employment, and it can be difficult to fill the position, she added.
Questioning the decision was a group of parents who believed the program could work with better marketing and awareness of its services.
“A lot of parents don’t know about it,” said one mother.
Folkema acknowledged the value of the program but said she couldn’t see the justification in taxpayers paying for it. The timing is ideal, she added, since nobody will lose a job over discontinuing the program.
School lunch a dime more
The board approved an increase of 10 cents per school lunch for the upcoming school year as recommended by Food Service Director Donna Westman to, in part, comply with state and federal regulations.
The increase means high school lunches will cost $2.50 and elementary lunches $2.35.
Board members also approved a nickel increase for adult breakfast, which is now $1.65 per meal.
Board organization for upcoming year
In organizing for next year, the board agreed to continue to hold meetings on the third Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. in Room 201 at the high school, to designate the Post Review as the district’s official newspaper and to approve organization memberships.
Board members also approved their compensation for the 2014-15 school year, which mirrors last year’s pay. For 12 regular board meetings, members are compensated $45 per meeting; special board meetings, as needed, $45 per meeting; committee meetings, as determined by the board, $45 per meeting; and all-day meetings, as needed, $90 per meeting.
In other news, the board:
• Hired Wes Prose, van driver; James Monson, assistant cross-country coach; and Michelle Kirby, eighth-grade volleyball coach.
• Approved, with regret, the resignation of longtime bus driver Rodney Swanson and agreed to send a letter of thanks for his years of service. Also resigning is Colleen Schumacher, of the Tiger Club program, effective July 30.
• Acknowledged a 71-passenger bus has been ordered through St. Cloud-based North Central Bus Sales Inc. using the Minnesota State School Bus Cooperative Purchasing system. The total cost is $93,698, including a trade-in deduction of $1,600 and taxes for the new bus, which is a bit less than the bus that was purchased a year ago.
• Approved the Health and Safety three-year budget, which consists of projects related to physical hazards, hazardous substance, management and fire safety. The fiscal 2014 budget totals $100,164; fiscal 2015, $70,500; and fiscal 2016, $50,300.
• Approved a fundraiser for girls basketball. Coach Joe Nelson requested permission for parents and athletes to work in the pork burger stand at the Chisago County Fair.