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Board approves levy amount, corrects it at special meeting
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Dec. 29, 2014

By Kristen Miller
News Editor

The Dassel-Cokato School Board called a special meeting after its members miscalculated a levy amount during the Dec. 18 regular meeting, that would’ve unintentionally lessened the per pupil amount.

Tina Palmer, the district’s business manager, recommended the board levy the maximum amount of $724 per pupil, or $2,574,882, to prevent the district from deficit spending next year. This was the preliminary amount the board approved in September.

Board members Tracy McConkey and Mark Linder expressed their concerns with levying that amount and suggested levying a lower amount equivalent to $650 per pupil, citing promises they made to their constituents to keep the levy as low as possible.

McConkey suggested levy the $650 and reevaluating the levy amount next year if they needed.

The estimated cost savings in levying the lower amount would equate to a $30 savings on a $175,000 homestead.

Outgoing board member Kevin Bjork noted that it’s a little bit of a gamble, after Superintendent Jeff Powers and Palmer identified some unknown financial factors that could lead the district to deficit-spend by as much as $200,000.

Board Member Rebecca Clemen noted that it’s been an “iffy year” with the building projects, and noted that if the fund balance is already low, she didn’t want the district to get further down the line and then need the extra $100 per pupil. “For $30 a year, I don’t know,” Clemen questioned, regarding the savings to the specific tax bracket.

After the levy amount was brought to a vote during the Dec. 18 meeting, with Irene Bender being the only member to vote against approving the lesser amount, the board was informed the following day that it had miscalculated.

The board-approved amount, as calculated by board members, would’ve lowered the levy to $598 per pupil, or by $52, as oppossed to the intended $650 per pupil.

Under the advisement of Palmer and Powers, a special meeting was called for Dec. 22. Despite there being a quorum, Bender and Clemen were not in attendance.

The board approved the intended amount $650 per pupil or $2,477,804, with Tormanen voting against it at the special meeting.

Tormanen explained his change of mind from the previous board meeting when he voted for the lower levy amount.

“We hire a business manager to make recommendations to the school board,” Tormanen said, “and her recommendation was to levy the full amount.”

Tormanen cited the number of unknowns that will determine what the district will actually need (currently, it’s only an estimate) such as curriculum updates for the industrial technology and agricultural departments.

Palmer also noted negotiations, state aid, and final enrollment numbers will also play a factor in what the district will actually need.

Taxpayers have already received their proposed tax statements, which reflect the maximum amount of $724 per pupil, which the board approved in September.

The new tax statements that will be sent out in the coming months will show a slight decrease, Palmer explained.

MAWSECO expansion

The school board heard proposed renovation plans for Meeker and Wright Special Education Cooperative (MAWSECO) during the Dec. 18 meeting.

MAWSECO is looking to renovate a portion of space in the old middle school building in Howard Lake. Currently, it utilizes parts of the middle school for three of its programs – Trek (for students with autism), Journeys (for students with emotional behavioral disorders), and Step (a transition program for ages 18 to 21).

Step is currently located in a section of the building that is slated for removal. The renovation would include the space that houses the existing auditorium.

By renovating some classrooms, the locker rooms, and band room, the cooperative hopes to continue offering alternative learning in Howard Lake, which is centrally located in the cooperative. Other member districts include Annandale, Dassel-Cokato, Delano, Litchfield, Maple Lake, and Rockford.

Before the project can move forward, all member districts will need to give their approval.

The total cost is estimated at about $2.57 million (not including interest), to be split among members.

Each of the member districts would contribute financially. DC’s contribution would be $27,235 annually for 15 years.

If the project is approved, construction would likely begin in the spring of 2015, with completion before school starts in the fall.

The board will look at revising the current joint powers agreement the district has with MAWSECO that would allow for a lease agreement.

Supt. contract approved

The board approved a new three-year contract for Superintendent Jeff Power, which includes a 2.75 percent annual increase in salary and a $500 increase to the automobile allowance.

Powers’ salary will increase from the current $133,351 to $137,018 for 2015-16; $140,685 for 2016-17; and $144,352 for 2017-18.

Bjork noted that DC was slightly “behind the market,” and wages are seeing an increase in the metro area.

Odds and ends

In other business, the board:

• approved the following personnel items: resignations of Sandra Koivisto as high school kitchen assistant, and Angela Norcutt as Dassel Elementary special needs para; employments of Ruthann Morris as Type III driver and Mary Emery as high school special needs para; the assignment of Alex Morris as gymnastics spotter; and approval of lane changes for Merrin Polzin-Lust and Melissa Rudebusch.

• approved the following donations: $320 from the Cokato Dairy Queen to be split between the two elementary schools, $2,587 from the DC Music Boosters for drumline coaches, $9,000 from Jonathan and Jane Ryan for the music department, $751.45 from the DC PTA toward the Bingo for Books at Dassel Elementary, first-grade bike rally at Dassel Elementary, Dassel Elementary media center and the DC Saints Reading Challenge event at Dassel Elementary; Target donation of paper to the middle school, $953 from the DC Wrestling Booster Club for a wrestling coach, $500 from the DC Swim Boosters for a swim coach, $5,000 from 3M ($958 to FIRST LEGO League and $4,042 to high school Robotics team), and an assortment of softball equipment from Shoreview Girls Fastpitch Softball Association.

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