Dec. 25 , 2006

LP student enrollment drops

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

There was a lot of excitement at the beginning of the school year when 20-plus extra students showed up to enroll at Lester Prairie School.

Now there was disappointment when Superintendent Joe Miller told the school board at Monday night’s meeting that 23 students have moved from the area decreasing the enrollment to the 462 students originally expected last fall.

Miller explained that the 23 students had meant an additional $120,000 in the budget that will be reduced to $40,000 because the students were here for only three months.

When students leave, expenses stay the same, so the budget will be tighter than it was a few months ago, Miller said.

However, the budget was based on 462 students attending Lester Prairie.

School finances

The school levy for 2007 was formally approved by the board at $700,121. The 2006 school levy was $316,757.

At its Dec. 5 Truth in Taxation meeting, there were a few residents asking why the taxes went up higher than anticipated.

Miller explained what the school will spend the levy money on, and how the levy is determined. He explained that if the school does not get money from the state government, then it has to come locally.

The general consensus of the group was to talk with legislators and express concerns over rising property taxes and suggest a property tax relief.

A recommendation to keep a required minimum general fund balance at 8 percent of the previous year’s final audited general fund expenditure or $279,875 was made by Miller. If the balance dips into that amount, a formal resolution would have to be made by the board to access the dollars.

The board seemed in doubt over the value of having to make a formal resolution to use those dollars.

Miller added, “I think it is critical that you set aside this money.”

The board voted. Jim Jorgenson was absent. Fred Blaser, Chester Hoernemann, and Jeff Hecksel voted “yes.” Bob Carlson and Melissa Williams voted “no.”

Another recommendation made by Miller was the necessity to start a reserved liquid asset fund to be designated for retirement benefits. Miller suggested starting the balance with $100,000 and adding an additional $50,000 annually. He also pointed out that in a few years more than $50,000 might need to be added to the fund to keep up with benefits that will be paid out.

The motion was approved unanimously.

Administration reports

Principal Pam Lukens informed the board that in January there would be a kickoff for upgrading the school playgrounds.

The existing playground would be updated and the play area for the preschool and kindergarten in the courtyard by the shop would get a new set of equipment.

A donation of $13,000 in matching funds has been received towards the playground set that will cost $26,000.

Additional donations totaling $6,000 toward the matching funds has already been received. The school needs to raise another $7,000.

Lukens also reported that Head Start would like to start a program at Lester Prairie School in conjunction with the preschool classes. Other buildings used for Head Start programs are at Glencoe and Hutchinson and are too far away for the Lester Prairie area.

Lukens was asking for permission for Head Start to apply for a grant, which the board agreed to. If the grant is approved, the preschool classes would be allowed to increase from 16 to 20 students, with Head Start adding an additional teacher.

Head Start’s students would attend an additional hour and eat lunch at the school after preschool students are dismissed to go home.

Secondary Principal/Activities Director Ron Erpenbach commented on the wonderful student leadership that is coming from the kids in his senior class.

His example was the student council and National Honor Society conducting a cash/food drive for the local food shelf and exceeding their goals.

Odds and ends

In other business the board:

• approved contracts for Joe Bayerl for the one act and spring plays; Peg Rathkamp as a kindergarten para-professional for 3.25 hours; Dave Rue for music concerts; Mike Kegler for a 50 percent coaching position for JV, varsity, and ninth grade boys basketball and specifically for the ninth grade away games.

• accepted the fire marshal inspection report and required expenditures to complete required improvements. Expenses are estimated at between $10,000 and $30,000.

Some of the items listed on the fire marshal’s report were hallways without emergency lighting, storage areas without smoke detectors, and a science lab needing automatic gas shutoff. Improvements must be made within 90 days.

• tabled a discussion on truancy until Police Chief Bob Carlson meets with the director of social services next month.

• scheduled the next regular school board meeting for Tuesday, Jan. 9, 6:30 p.m. to reorganize the board.

• postponed the board retreat until after the parent - school community survey is completed in February.

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