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District 518 approves maximum levy

The $8.8 million levy that will fund school year 2020-2021 is about a 6.75% increase from last year when excluding recent voter-approved referenda.

district 518 brown house
District 518's administration building in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON — The Independent School District 518 Board of Education approved Tuesday an $8.8 million tax levy to fund the 2020-2021 school year, an increase of approximately $2.7 million over last year’s levy.

The board approved its maximum levy authority by a 5-2 count, with Mike Harberts and Adam Blume casting the “no” votes.

The tax increase reflects about a 38% increase over last year, reportedly due in large part to recently approved referendums to build a new three-grade intermediate school and transfer lease levy bonds to general obligation bonds so that they're eligible for the Ag2Schools tax credit. Without the increase due to referendums, the year-over-year percentage increase reflects closer to 6.75%.

According to the district’s Truth in Taxation Hearing, which was presented by Business Manager Dave Skog, the local levy accounts for 8.17% of the district’s funds. The majority of the district’s funding comes from state aid.

According to Skog, during the past 10 years, the district under levied $2.7 million from its maximum authority.

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Board members also discussed Trojan Field project bids on the table. By a 5-2 vote, the board approved a $4,794,000 bid by Puetz Corporation of Mitchell, South Dakota. With additional soft costs, the project is now estimated $7.3 million. Puetz was the lowest of five bidders.

Harberts and board member Blume cast the "no" votes, and they’ve voiced concern about the project cost being over the $4.5 million the board originally budgeted.

According to ICS Project Director Christopher Ziemer, there’s a premium on the buildings. Ziemer said the district isn’t likely to get better bids for the project, as several of the bids received were within the same price range.

Ziemer said the district can value engineer once the bid is awarded. Ziemer estimated the district could reduce the project cost to about $6.55 million if they got “really aggressive” with value engineering.

Harberts wanted to delay awarding a bid and suggested the board host a Jan. 6 work session to discuss other projects.

“Do we have a backup plan for our space-needs plan in the event they’re over budget?” Harberts asked.

The board also approved its 2020-2021 school calendar, which will have students starting before Labor Day.

The first day of school for students will be Aug. 31, 2020 and the last scheduled for May 28, 2021, for a total 177 instructional days. Teacher in-service will begin Aug. 24, 2020, and the new teacher workshop on Aug. 17. The final teacher in-service is scheduled June 1, 2021.

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Although Minnesota statute generally prohibits schools from starting before Labor Day, the district becomes eligible for an earlier start due to planned construction in excess of $400,000.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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