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District 518 discusses excess operating levy amount

WORTHINGTON — The District 518 school board passed a motion Tuesday to go forward with a resolution that would increase the excess operating levy by $15 more than what taxpayers with a property valued at $100,000 are currently paying.

The board concluded that by slightly increasing the amount, it can better prepare for future costs as well as not ask residents for another increase in the near future, should the district need more levy money.

While Tuesday’s action doesn’t translate into a final referendum decision, a resolution will now be completed asking residents for a 10-year, $500-per-pupil-unit excess operating levy. That would bring a revenue increase of approximately $447,000.

District Accounting Supervisor Pat Morphew, gave a brief presentation to board members on some of the amount options the board seek in a levy.

“If we renew at our current amount with no increase, we would be asking the voters for $366,” Morphew said. “That would have an effect of raising our total revenue by $30,308, and it would also lower our levy locally by $112,950, effecting individual properties by about $16 per year at the $100,000 value.

“If we look at $84.40, that brings us to a total of $451. Again, the idea there with how much it would affect a $100,000 property would be zero; there would be no change from what is currently in place.

“The other number we looked at was to bring it to $500, and it would have an increase of $15 for a property valued at $100,000,” Morphew added.

Superintendent John Landgaard broke down the options further.

“In the scenarios that Pat ran through ... if the referendum fails, there will be a decrease in taxes for residents,” Landgaard explained. “If we were to utilize the $84 number that he (Pat) said, that is actually where were currently at, but it does not take in any inflationary costs.”

School board members weighed the different options of each scenario and leaned toward the $500-per- pupil-unit, anticipating increases in costs.

“My question is, looking at the budgets and looking at the future number of students ... what is it that we need?” board member Steve Schnieder asked. “Which one of these levy referendums gives us the financing to provide the education and programs that we have? I don’t have a problem approving less or approving more, as long as it pays the bills and provides for the education and programs.”

Landgaard responded by saying it comes down to the district’s fund balance and enrollment numbers.

“If our enrollment grows then we will see more revenue, but you also have to remember that contracts don’t go down, they go up,” Landgaard said. “Supplies and materials (also) continue to go up, which continues the inflationary factor.

“The other part of that element is there are maintenance issues that need to be addressed in the near future, and if you add a new facility, that will bring in additional costs for that.”

School board member Mark Shepherd spoke out for the $500-per-pupil-unit question on the ballot.

“I think I would favor the $500 for this reason — the $451 is basically saying if we need more, we can go back to the voters and ask,” Shepherd said.

“I would come down with the higher amount hoping that the board in the future does the same thing we’ve done in the past by not raising the amount if we don’t need it,” he continued. “That way, we can save expenses by not going through other elections.”

Ultimately, the board unanimously approved the resolution to be drafted for a 10-year, $500 per-pupil-unit levy amount.

“I would prefer to go with the longer time period, 10 years, just because spreading this out over a longer period of time makes more sense to me than having to go back every three or five years, and having to go through this process again,” Schnieder said. “Then we can concentrate on other things rather than passing referendums.”

The resolution will be prepared for the board by the July school board meeting.

District 518 also approved three separate tax abatement properties as part of the Nobles Home Initiative. Two properties located in Bigelow, as well as a property in Lorain Township, have all been given the go-ahead to move forward with new construction.

Landgaard updated the board on next year’s enrollment projections, stating that student numbers are expected to increase to 3,006 next year after a total of 2,844 this past year.

Landgaard also announced that the district will be losing its 21st Century Learning Grant, which funds after-school programs and summer school. The loss means a shortfall of $300,000 to these programs.

“We’re losing the grant this upcoming year, and that will either mean offering a program for less days or limited transportation,” Landgaard said. “Not receiving that money will make it more difficult to close that achievement gap.”

Alternative Learning Principal Nate Hanson explained how the loss of the grant will greatly affect the ALC.

“Our summer school currently has an enrollment of about 700 or so kids,” he said. “Between 150 and 175 of those kids are in credit recovery — that would be for 10th through 12th grade — and then the rest would be K-8.”

Landgaard added that the number of students enrolled in summer school is about 25 percent of the district’s total enrollment.

Updates on the new addition to the high school’s music department were discussed. The board approved the planning of the new addition last month, and Landgaard said a committee will hopefully be formed in August to have bigger discussions on the planning of the addition.

Landgaard announced at the end of the meeting that WHS has been selected for the Minnesota State Supreme Court to visit the school in October. Students and residents will have the opportunity to participate in the event.

Daily Globe Reporter Erin Trester may be reached at 376-7322.

Erin Trester
Erin Trester is the crime and city reporter for the Daily Globe. She's a native of Lewiston, MN, but moved to Buffalo, NY to attend college and obtained her bachelor's degree in Communications. She started at the Western New York Catholic Newspaper as a reporter in Buffalo, but in October 2013 she returned to her home state to start with the Daily Globe. Most of her spare time is taken up by her 13-year-old thoroughbred named Faith, but some of her other hobbies include reading, fishing and spending time with friends and family. 
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