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School levy reduced by $1 million

WORTHINGTON -- The District 518 Board of Education voted 4-2 Tuesday to authorize a one-time levy reduction of approximately $1 million for next year.

"I do support what's being proposed here-giving money back to taxpayers when we do have revenues that we haven't reserved yet... we have a new governor and new legislative control and we have a $6 billion deficit in the state of Minnesota," said board member Steve Schnieder. "I don't feel comfortable at this point supporting a change of this magnitude without knowing what the government... is going to do with us."

The one-time levy reduction was put together after a budget work session on Nov. 15.

District 518 was authorized to levy up to $5,059,095.13 from local property taxpayers, but set its preliminary levy below that, at $4,769,815.13 -- a number which included $289,280 of the $1 million reduction approved Tuesday.

As additional numbers came in, the district found it could trim an additional $710,800 from the levy, and give a total of $1,000,080 back to local property taxpayers.

Thus, the board set its total certified levy at $4,059,015.13 rather than claiming the $5 million-plus number from taxpayers.

"We don't think the taxpayers should pay more than they have to for the next year," said school board member Joel Lorenz.

The district has reduced its costs for next year using new energy efficiency measures, increased enrollment and administrative oversight of the district budget, which will result in conservative expenditures.

"This is something that does not happen very often in school districts," said Superintendent John Landgaard.

Though the state of Minnesota matches some of the money levied by the school district, the district opted to reduce money coming into specific accounts so that it would not receive less state aid money.

"The school board recognizes the commitment it made to taxpayers in the 2006 excess operating levy referendum election and is working to meet its commitment of sound fiscal management," the resolution stated.

Board member Bob Jirele also voted against the measure, echoing Schnieder's concerns. Mark Shepherd, another board member, was not present at the meeting.

"We want the taxpayers to be comfortable with our ability to manage their tax dollars and to trust us, to know that we're not going to spend just to spend," said board member Brad Shaffer. "We levy taxes, we collect the taxes, and if for some reason we have more than we feel we should have at this point, we're willing to give some back."

In other news Tuesday, the board:

* Approved the employment of Joel Evans as assistant wrestling coach at Worthington High School, Hoa Thai Mai as program aide with Community Education, Daryl Doeden and William Knigge as lunch room supervisors at Worthington Middle School, Paris Langseth as program aide-data entry with Community Education, Kathleen Fleming as paraprofessional with the EDGE program, Lorna Kruger as long-term substitute in business education at WHS, and Sheila Shnyders as long-term substitute first grade teacher at Prairie Elementary.

* Approved the second reading of policies on harassment and violence, bullying and hazing, with no changes since the first reading.

* Approved three student expulsions, two for violations regarding substance issues.

The third expulsion was due to a violation of school policy regarding weapons, when a student brought a pocketknife to school. No student was in danger, Landgaard said.

* Approved the addition of a half-time early childhood special education teaching position, a full-time English Language Learner (ELL) teaching position and a full-time ELL paraprofessional position.