June 18, 2007

Board votes to go forth with levy

Dassel-Cokato wants to reestablish itself as a School of Excellence

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

The Dassel-Cokato School Board approved a fall levy asking voters to increase the district’s revenue by $1 million each year for seven years.

If passed, district taxpayers would pay 59 percent of this amount, with the state picking up 41 percent.

A preliminary list of referendum needs was compiled by Superintendent Jeff Powers after previous board discussions. Some of the items suggested were:

• Five full-time teachers

• Special education

• Technology and support

• Transportation; fuel, bus

• Increase supply budget

• Media center books

Dahlman supported this list, with an estimated levy amount of $738,780 initially.

“We want to reestablish ourselves as a school of excellence,” Dahlman said after the meeting.

“We want more programs in place so we can offer better opportunities for our kids,” he added.

Currently, there is no levy in place for DC. For the 2008 fiscal year, there is $6,989 allocated per pupil unit (total revenue of the district divided by the number of students). With the proposed levy revenue, it would increase revenue per pupil unit by $429 for a total of $7,418 per pupil unit, according to Tina Palmer, district business manager. This is still below the average of $8,033 for non metro schools.

“We are more than $1,000 per pupil under the out state average (rural schools with enrollments between 1,000 and 2,500 students),” said Richard Tormanen, board member, who has been attending meetings for Schools for Equity in Education (SEE).

“This makes DC the sixth lowest in the state,” Tormanen said.

“In order to prepare DC students to compete in a global society we are challenged to provide them with better opportunities including low class sizes, technology, and advanced courses,” Powers said following the meeting.

“What was good enough for me [as a student] isn’t good enough anymore,” he said.

Concerns from board members Brian Bjork and Cary Linder were how to make a more compelling argument to the voters of the district’s need for the additional levy money.

“We recognize the need, but how do we make 55 percent of the voters recognize that the need? [It won’t work for us] to run faster and jump higher,” Bjork said.

Audience member Bob Gasch explained getting the levy passed is a communication challenge, not a dollar figure challenge.

Audience member Brian Rootes explained the board has to “motivate for excellence.”

With last year’s levy request being similar to the recommended amount ($772,548 or $325 per pupil unit), Rootes told the board, “If you have the same dollar amount and the same reasons, you’ll get the same election results.”

That was when Linder made the motion to go forth with a fall levy for $1 million for seven years or $429 per pupil with inflation built in.

In other business

Board member Karen Ness resigned from the school board effective June 11.

Following her resignation, the board approved her employment as the DC High School Family and Consumer Science instructor for the 2007-08 school year.

The board is asking for letters of interest to fill Ness’ position on the board for the remainder of the one-and-a-half year term.

For the next meeting, Thursday, June 28, Dahlman has invited the Wright County Assessor, along with city and township officials, to explain property taxes and evaluation processes.

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