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DC board approves 5.6 % levy increase, Powers addresses upcoming assembly
Sept. 29, 2014

By Kristen Miller
News Editor

DASSEL-COKATO, MN – The Dassel-Cokato School Board approved its 2015 preliminary levy during Thursday’s meeting.

Although there is a 5.6 percent increase in the levy, or $137,423, the majority of residents won’t see much of change. Commercial, industrial and agricultural properties will most likely see a decrease.

The proposed general fund levy will increase by $432,256 over last year, mainly due to the board-approved $300-per-pupil referendum, which was approved at the July 24 board meeting.

Location Optional Revenue also increased, which is an automatic levy from the state for all schools, and DC is at $424 per pupil. This was due to changes from legislature that equalize the revenue at a higher state percentage, Palmer explained.

Palmer also noted that market value in the district increased by 6.45 percent, higher than the state average of 5.9 percent.

Because the district paid off the 2007 bond and reduced debt service by $300,000, taxpayers won’t see a significant change on their tax statements, though the bond affects properties at a different rate, Palmer explained.

For example, a residential homestead of $125,000 will likely see a $9 increase in taxes.

A $300,000 commercial property will likely see a decrease of $138.

Palmer recommended certifying the maximum levy amount at this time, and the board can decide to reduce the amount once the audit is completed and enrollment numbers come in.

To learn more about the levy, the public is invited to the Truth in Taxation hearing set for Monday, Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. in the board room.

High school assembly addressed

Powers addressed the upcoming high school assembly with the board, which had received some negative reactions after its recent program at Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School.

Wednesday, Oct. 1 at 1:30 p.m. in the west gymnasium a presentation will be given by the Todd Becker Organization.

Powers explained that this is a Christian organization, but it gives a secular presentation for schools. This is during the day, and open to the public.

The presentation is given by a man who lost his brother in a car accident “and the choices that led to his demise,” said Dean Jennissen, high school principal.

“It’s a message that we need to hear,” he said, adding that it’s about staying away from drugs and risky choices.

“It’s an excellent assembly – powerful,” Powers said, noting what he has heard from Hutchinson and HLWW administrators.

In addition to the school assembly, however, there is also an evening assembly by the same organization that is Christian-based and sponsored by area churches.

The problems arose in HLWW when materials for the evening presentation was handed out during the public school assembly. There was also counseling offered to students at the assembly.

“That will not be happening here,” Powers said.

Thinesen said the organization has good references, and it is in the business of presenting to public schools.

Powers added he’s looking forward to a great presentation with a universal message.

Full-time custodial needed with elementary additions

With the new rooms added to the two elementary schools, additional custodial time will be needed.

The original plans noted that Dassel Elementary would need an additional, half hour and Cokato Elementary roughly an additional hour-and-a-half.

Powers informed the board of a recent resignation of a half-time custodian.

Powers, working with Palmer and head custodian John Martinson, recommended a full-time custodian be hired to fill this position. It was noted that winter events add more time to the high school custodial staff, which is also shared time with Dassel Elementary.

Hiring a full-time custodian would add $15,000 to $22,000 (depending on insurance) to the current budget.

He told the board that the district has run fairly lean with its custodial hours, and it has done well, though it’s getting stretched.

Powers also noted that the district is having a harder time filling part-time positions and the applicants are limited.

“When we find the right people, it’s money well spent,” he told the board.

The board gave Powers the OK to revise the budget.

“I trust your judgement,” said Board Member Richard Tormanen.

Transgender policy proposed from MSHL

Powers informed the board that the governing body of high school athletics, the Minnesota State High School League is working on a transgender policy for equal participation in school athletics.

“I don’t think it’s the high school league’s job to tell us how to deal with our kids and our families,” Powers told the board, adding that the district is “constantly being told what to do” by the league.

He told the board that local school districts need to start taking a stand, adding that the district has a responsibility to its children and families.

To read the policy, click here.

School lunch standards continue to be a problem

With 850 calories being the limit per meal according to recent changes to the federal guidelines, many students aren’t getting what they need, Powers told the board. Also, the earliest lunches are as early as 10:30 a.m.

“I know families with high school boys going through two to three lunches a day,” Powers said.

Powers told the board he and Palmer are working on alternatives to the federal lunch standards.

It was noted that Wayzata Public Schools has even opted out of the program. Palmer said doing so would affect funding because the district would lose state and federal funding for free and reduced lunches.

Last year, the high school went through 5,000 entrees a day and an additional 16,000 second full meals. Currently, the district sells a second entree for $1, but may consider it being a free option.

Tormanen agreed, saying calorie standards shouldn’t be the same for each student, particularly athletes who burn more calories.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Tormanen commented.

Mighty Ducks grant

The board agreed to be the fiscal agent for a Mighty Ducks grant on behalf of the Dassel-Cokato Regional Ice and Sports Center.

This is a matching grant of up to $250,000, which Keith Raisanen, DCRISC board chair, said he is optimistic the organization will receive.

Look for a full update on the DCRISC in an upcoming edition of the Enterprise Dispatch.

Odds and ends

In other business, the board:

• welcomed the new student representative to the board. Marla Peterson will represent the student body on the board.

A daughter of Brian and Melissa Peterson of Dassel, Marla is a senior at DCHS and is involved in various activities including co-president of the student council, and yearbook editor.

• approved lane changes for Megan Chatterton, Carla Halvorson, Catherine Young, and Derek Levno.

• approved family medical leave of absences for Merrin Polzine-Lust, Megan Chatterton, and Ann Leuthmers.

• approved the assignments of Rich Dahlberg and Steve Ellis as the fall trapshooting coaches; Jeff Powers and Eric Monson as volunteer trapshooting coaches; and Kate Kaiser as junior high girls swim coach.

• approved the employment of Jane Ryan as licensed parent and early childhood educator, the resignation/retirement of Marlyce Bjork as type III route driver, the re-employment of Deb Nolan as type III driver, and Grace Yanke and Kevin Schut as substitute drivers.

• approved the list of winter coaches and DC Community Education instructors.

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