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DC’s preliminary levy shows a 0.55 percent increase
Sept. 26, 2011
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By Jennifer Kotila
Staff Writer

DASSEL, COKATO, MN – “Overall, the levy is about the same as last year, with an increase of a little under $15,000,” said Dassel-Cokato Business Manager Tina Palmer.

The Dassel-Cokato School Board approved the 2011 preliminary levy, which showed a 0.55 percent increase from 2010, at Thursday’s meeting.

However, there were legislative changes that affect residents in the DC School District in regards to the levy, Palmer noted.

The state repealed the homestead market value credit, saving itself $261 million each year, Palmer said.

Although the legislative change does not affect the school district’s revenue, it does affect the residents.

“There is a potential for residents to see an increase in taxes,” Palmer said.

“It’s encouraging to see the (levy) increases are down and the total increase is less than 1 percent,” noted School Board Chair Kevin Bjork.

Urdahl’s ‘misleading letter’

A letter State Representative Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City) sent to township boards, county commissioners, and other local government officials was presented to the school board during the superintendent’s report.

The letter was brought to the school board’s attention in order to clarify the amount of new money Urdahl claimed school districts would be receiving, Powers said.

“Urdahl didn’t send out inaccurate information,” Powers said. “However, the numbers for us are misleading.”

Palmer explained the difference in the way the amount of new money coming into the district was calculated by herself, and then how Urdahl calculated the new money coming into the district.

There was nothing the legislature did to increase the district’s revenue by the amount Urdahl claims, Palmer noted.

The increase comes from adding 39 students to the district, she added.

Powers explained that, if the district had not added 39 students, but instead decreased its population by a certain number, Urdahl’s calculations would be very different.

“It’s not a legislative change or new money they got us – it’s very misleading,” Powers said.

Community education programs prosper

Enrollment is up in all the community education programs throughout the district, reported School Board Member Tracy McConkey.

He noted that the summer musical, “The Sound of Music,” was very profitable, with nearly 2,000 people in attendance and a $9,000 profit.

Overall, the summer programs brought in about $15,000, McConkey said.

Due to the prosperity of the community education programs in the past few years, its general fund balance was in excess according to government standards, Palmer said.

Rather than allowing the program to lose funding because of too large of a fund balance, the district charged the community education program for expenses related to things such as utilities and shared employees.

“That dropped the fund balance from $105,000 to $48,000,” Palmer said.

The government calculates each district’s general fund balance for community education on a three-year average, Palmer explained.

The average for DC had increased because of a smaller fund balance falling off and being replaced by a healthier one this year.

Since the district was able to lower the fund balance to $48,000 this year, it will bring the three-year average down again, Palmer noted.

Powers noted the district is working closely with Activities Director Perry Thineson to make sure the fund balance for community education remains healthy.

Odds and ends

In other business, the school board:

• noted that the DC trail board will be applying for a Minnesota Department of Revenue legacy grant again this year, with the City of Cokato as the applicant, as reported by School Board Member Irene Bender.

The trail was evaluated by Cokato’s city engineer, Eric Lembke of Bonestroo, who recommended grinding the blacktop to create a 9-inch base and recovering with 2 inches of new blacktop, at a cost of $195,000.

Each of the four entities who are a part of the trail board (the cities of Dassel and Cokato, the DC School District, and Dassel Township) are asked to contribute $15,000, Bender said.

This will allow for a 20 percent match for the grant money, as well as money to be set aside for maintenance of the trail, Bender noted.

• the inside of the Dassel-Cokato Regional Ice and Sports Center is continuing to dry out, reported Bjork.

Insulation and gutters will still be installed this fall, the storm sewer connection has been made, and rough grading has been completed around the building.

The kick-off for fundraising for phase two of construction should take place within the next couple of weeks, Bjork noted.

• approved the systems accountability report for the district.

• approved reopening open enrollment for fifth and sixth grade, as those class sizes are down slightly.

Open enrollment for the middle school has been closed for a few years due to class sizes, and some families have been turned away.

• approved lane changes for Cindy Kaczmarek, Michelle Melquist, Todd Heinonen, Todd Goudy, Naomi Stelzer, Catherine Fasching, Lori Hanson, and Jennifer Bertram.

• approved family leave and unpaid child care leave for Melissa Rudebusch beginning approximately Jan. 3, 2012 to June 1, 2012.

• approved unpaid medical leave for Alyce Terning from Sept. 6 to Dec. 31.

• approved the proposed program for Lori Hanson to work toward a lane change.

• approved the resignation of Jenny Kjell as a Dassel Elementary Title I paraprofessional, effective Sept. 30.

• accepted the resignation of Gwen Rien as a Dassel Elementary special education paraprofessional.

• approved the employment of Jedidiah Reedy as a Cokato Elementary Title I paraprofessional from Sept. 6 to Dec. 22.

• accepted donations of $2,372 from Target Corporation for the high school; $550 from the family of Stanley Dahlman for the foster grandparent program; $1,900 from AgStar Financial Services for the horsemanship class in the high school (applied for by Eric Sawatzke); $100 from Joelle Woetzel and Dollars for Doers at Allina Health for Dassel Elementary; and $103.86 from Target Corporation to the Alternative Learning Center.

• approved rescheduling the Nov. 24 school board meeting to Monday, Nov. 21.

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