By Jennifer Kotila
DASSEL, COKATO, MN Before the state legislature passed its budget creating more equalization for taxpayers in districts such as Dassel-Cokato, the school board agreed to ask district taxpayers to approve an operating levy in fall 2013 of about $612 per student, which would be tax-neutral for residents.
If the district continued to ask taxpayers to approve a $612 per student operating levy, the changes in state education aid funding would increase the revenue for the district while also reducing the burden on the taxpayers, business manager Tina Palmer told the board at Thursday’s meeting.
However, since the original goal of the board was to ask taxpayers to approve an operating levy that is tax-neutral for residents, the board decided it would like to see those figures before making a final decision.
“I don’t want to be in a position where you are asking me how we can spend money,” Superintendent Jeff Powers said, noting that asking residents for $612 per student would allow the district to continue its programming at current levels.
Further discussion regarding the operating levy will take place Thursday, July 25 at the board meeting, where Palmer and Powers will present options for the operating levy, what the burden will be on taxpayers, and what the district would use the funds for.
Powers noted the board would have to make a decision at that meeting in order to have a resolution ready to pass by Thursday, Aug. 22. The deadline for the board to pass a resolution regarding a fall operating levy vote is Aug. 23.
Board approves fiscal year 2014 budget
The board approved the fiscal year 2014 budget, which had no changes since presented June 10.
Total estimated revenues for the district are $22,678,819, with projected expenditures of $23,743,340, leaving an estimated shortfall of $1,064,521.
Although there is a shortfall, the district expected and planned to be deficit spending in 2014 due to the discontinuation of federal stimulus money.
The district also has healthy fund balances which allow the district to spend more than its revenue if needed.
The estimated unappropriated general fund balance at the end of the 2012-13 school year is $4,045,477.
Estimated revenues for the unappropriated general fund total $17,225,904, with estimated expenditures of $17,799,997, leaving a projected fund balance of $3,471,384 at the end of the 2013-14 fiscal year.
Revenue assumptions for the general fund include an expected student enrollment of 2,202, and a 1.5 percent increase to the state general education formula.
It was also noted that the education jobs funds have expired, compensatory aid decreased by $20,000, and the staff development funding is back at 2 percent.
Revenue assumptions for the capital fund include a decrease in the health and safety budget of $34,434 due to the calamity bond being paid off, and an increase of $4,273 in aid.
Food service fund revenue assumptions include a 10-cent increase in lunch prices, no cost to families for the milk and juice break, and a state increase of 5 cents for school lunch.
Revenue assumptions for the community education fund include a stable Wright County Family Services Collaborative grant, a decrease in fees and tuitions in youth programs and the performing arts center, a decrease in levy revenue for Charger Kids Club, and a state aid decrease for early childhood family education.
Expenditure assumptions for the general fund include a 1.29 full-time-equivalent overall increase in staff, the need to meet all contractual obligations, an increase of 6.5 to 7 percent in the employer share of the teacher retirement association, changes due to the Affordable Care Act, and insurance increases.
Teachers contract approved
Following one negotiation meeting, the negotiations committee for the board came to an agreement for contract terms with the DC Education Association, which was ratified by the board.
The terms of the contract for July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2015 include a 2 percent increase to the salary grid per year; an increase of $2,200 to the family insurance cap, and $741.50 to the single insurance cap; a 2 percent increase to schedule C positions (coaches and advisors); and the addition of three schedule C positions.
Odds and ends
In other business, the board:
• approved several policies relating to student dress and appearance, Internet acceptable use and safety, and substitute teachers.
It also had the first reading of several other policy changes. The policies and their changes are located on the district’s website.
• approved a three-year lease agreement with CBS Properties for the alternative learning center, which includes a 2 percent increase in the monthly rent.
The rent will increase from $2,660 per month to $2,713 per month. This is the first increase since the district began renting the building six years ago.
• approved the annual health and safety budget and the health and safety plan.
Projects for 2013-14 total about $57,000 and include elevator inspections, personal protection equipment, an aerial lift inspection, wood chips for playgrounds, eyewash tempering valves, batteries and pads for automated external defibrillators (AED), hazardous wasted disposal, management services, compliance costs for employee right-to-know and blood borne pathogen, asbestos removal, annual fire inspections, and fire extinguisher testing.
• approved continuing contracts for Cokato Elementary special education teacher Christine Karlgaard, middle school language arts teachers Anna Reedy and Naomi Stelzer, fifth grade teacher Matt Hogg, fifth grade teacher Megan Chatterton, sixth grade teacher TJ Anderson, middle school math teacher Tony Dehler, middle school special education teacher Amy Bollman, middle school social worker Beth Steinleitner, high school English teacher Stephanie Schlangen, high school and alternative learning center science teacher Andy Hegdahl, agricultural education teacher and FFA advisor Eric Sawatzke, high school and alternative learning center math teacher Laura Sellner, high school social worker Anne Mahoney, high school counselor Ryan Tool, and high school dean of students Dennis Abernathy.
• appointed Christina Clark to the curriculum advisory committee.
• approved a contract with Institute for Environmental Assessment (IEA) for health and safety consulting services at a cost of $7,200 for one year.
• approved accepting a letter to file regarding the DC Regional Ice and Sports Center (DCRISC) outlining changes in procedure.
The five phases of construction have been reduced to three to reduce overall construction costs, and the ability to partially complete phases as funds become available.
• approved lane changes for Beth Allen, Heidi Sickmann, and Cole Flick.
• approved the resignations of high school and middle school lead night custodian Brent Anderson, middle school special needs paraeducator Janice Carlson, transportation coordinator Kevin Miller, Cokato Elementary special needs paraeducator and school safety patrol advisor Jedidiah Reedy, part-time high school German teacher Jessica Trost, and Cokato Elementary first grade teacher Sam Weber.
• approved the employment of Dennis Abernathy as high school dean of students, Katie Scepaniak as a high school Spanish instructor, Jennifer Robinson as a middle school sign language interpreter, Sara Binsfield as a Cokato Elementary first grade teacher, Beth Gerholz as a Cokato Elementary first grade long-term substitute, employment of Amy Jensen as a Cokato Elementary fourth grade instructor, and Karen Weir as the middle school cook manager.
• approved the assignment of Staci Barth as the marching band color guard instructor, and Nicole Elke as a volunteer marching band instructor.
• approved family and medical leaves for Kelly Johnson and Amy Terning.
• accepted donations of $300 from an anonymous donor for the football program; $75 from Coborn’s to Dassel Elementary; and $200 from Design and Fabricating for the DC Regional Trail.