By Gabe Licht
DELANO, MN Following the passage of the school bond referendum, the Delano Public Schools levy will increase from about $4.963 million in 2015 to $9.385 million in 2016.
“The majority of that increase is due to the bond referendum passed in November, as well as the district will be fully certifying the operating levy that was approved back in 2007,” business manager Mary Reeder said during a Dec. 14 Truth in Taxation public hearing.
Voter-approved debt service will increase from about $2.38 million to about $6.51 million, due in part to bond payments that will begin in August. Also included in that amount is the operating levy voters approved in 2007. It raises the total operating levy from $335 per student to $651.51 per student compared to the state average of $776 per student resulting in an increase from about $471,000 to about $1.27 million in total.
Resident Kevin Kangas asked why the operating levy would be enacted in 2016 when the new intermediate school building wouldn’t be built for at least two more years.
“We were transparent through the whole process that it would be enacted,” Superintendent Matt Schoen said. “There will be preliminary costs that we’ll need to spend those dollars on. That’s why we were letting people know what the impact would be.”
School Board Chair Amy Johnson added that the operating levy is needed to operate the entire infrastructure of the school campus, not just a new building.
“The operating levy was the total dollar amount we needed to operate the total aspects of our district. Some of those operational aspects will come into play during the construction of the building,” Johnson said, noting that the operating levy cannot be used for construction costs.
She continued by saying the district could have enacted the levy any time after it was passed in 2007, but the district had made the decision not to do so until a bond referendum for a new building was passed, even though the state penalized the district for not enacting the levy.
When asked if the district would ask for a higher operating levy once the intermediate school was built, Johnson said, “No, not at this time.”
Any operating levy funds not spent while the intermediate school building is built would be saved for future operating costs, Schoen added.
As for operating costs associated with building the new building, Schoen said. “We may assign staff to be a part of the process, and, if inevitabilities come up, we want to be prepared.”
While voter-approved debt service is increasing, other debt service the alternative and capital facility bonds used for an HVAC system are decreasing from about $432,000 to about $321,000.
Other general local tax levies are increasing from about $1.98 million to about $2.36 million. Notable changes include about $72,000 in location equity from the state due to an increased tax base, an increase of about $31,000 in the Meeker and Wright Special Education Co-op lease, and about $447,000 in long-term facility maintenance revenue replacing a combined total of about $216,000 in health and safety and deferred maintenance funds.
“They are replacing all those dollars with long-term facility maintenance revenue,” Reeder said, referring to action the Minnesota legislature took in 2015. “The first year, that is $193 per student.”
The community service budget for community education is increasing from about $169,000 to about $193,000, due to more students at Tiger Kids Club with individual education plans requiring more staffing. The district will be reimbursed the additional IEP-related costs in two years.
The district’s budget estimates about $28.41 million in revenue compared to about $29.29 million in expenditures, which will reduce the fund balance from about $7.81 million to about $6.93 million.
“We always try to be as fiscally responsible as possible,” Reeder said. “Usually, revenue comes in higher than we budgeted.”
Following the Truth in Taxation hearing, the board approved a resolution for the sale of $62.05 million in general obligation bonds, approved financial authorization limits of $100,000 for Schoen and $300,000 for the project oversight committee for expenses related to the district’s building projects, and established procedures for reimbursement of building-related expenses from the proceeds of future bond funds.
Odds and ends
In other business, the board:
• approved a memorandum of agreement with the custodian union allowing the district to contract with a private company for custodian services at the Delano Community Education building due to difficulty finding qualified custodians to service the building over the past year.
• approved surplus items to be sold or disposed of, including workout equipment, computer equipment, tablets, a 1989 Dodge truck and snowplow, and a John Deere brush.
• approved the following donations: $14,400 for technology and $2,000 for toner from Elementary School PIE, $5,000 for the Delano softball Florida spring training trip from the Knights of Columbus, and $137.35 for athletics from Ohiopyle Prints.
• set an organizational meeting for 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 4, at Delano City Hall.