WORTHINGTON - During Tuesday’s night’s regular District 518 Board of Education meeting, the board gave the nod for administration to begin preparing final tax figures to reflect a half-million levy reduction from its maximum authority.

Prior to the 5-1 vote with vice chair Scott Rosenberg absent, board members weighed the potential public perception related to their decision and the value of having an extra funding cushion should the upcoming intermediate school bond proposal pass.

It was board member Linden Olson - who delivered the lone “no” vote - that brought the latter issue for discussion. Olson articulated some concerns related to potential unforeseen construction costs pending passage of the proposed bond.

“Then we have some leeway we can use to make that construction possible if the prices come in higher than we anticipate,” he said. “If the bond doesn’t pass, we can under-levy next year rather than this year and it doesn’t make a bit of difference.”

Board clerk Joel Lorenz said he understood that sentiment, but that he ultimately thought under-levying was a “good move” for the taxpayers.

Consistent with previous comments he’s made throughout the discussion process, board treasurer Brad Shaffer said he continues to be concerned about “kicking the can down the road” to delay the shock of what’s perceived as a large levy increase despite understanding its cause being the result of historic under-levying.

“Everyone gets so caught up in the percentage,” he said. “(Our percentage increase) is going to be high when compared to the city (of Worthington) and county. We need to be very straightforward in what we’re doing.”

If approved, the 2019 tax levy will appear to be a 14 to 15 percentage increase from last year’s. Despite the proposed levy reduction from its maximum authority, it will still show an increase due to the board’s decision last year to under levy by approximately $1 million.

Superintendent John Landgaard said if the board does under-levy by $500,000, the amount the board has under-levied in the past 10 years will be approximately just greater than $4 million.

Final numbers that reflect a $500,000 reduction will be presented during December’s scheduled truth in taxation hearing. They will then later be approved or rejected by the board during regular meeting.

The board is expected to break from its regular Dec. 18 meeting at 6 p.m. for the public truth in taxation hearing. It will likely then resume its regular meeting and make a motion related to the 2019 levy. The regular and truth in taxation meetings will take place in the Worthington High School Media Center.

School board-elect Adam Blume attended Tuesday’s meeting.

In other business, the board:

  • Approved a resolution officially calling for a one-question Feb. 12 referendum seeking approval of bonds not to exceed $32 million for construction of a new intermediate school for students in grades three through five.
  • Unanimously approved a new communications position designed to help the district better communicate with stakeholders. The district has not had this position since it was cut in 2002.
  • Heard a World’s Best Workforce annual report from Director of Teaching and Learning Katie Clarke. The goals identified in the plan focus on closing the achievement gap; increasing kindergarten readiness, reading proficiency in third-grade students, college and career readiness and graduation rates; and continuing the district’s strong financial health. The plan will be located under the “resource tab” on the district’s website.
  • Heard a Nobles County Integration Collaborative report by Nancy Landeros. The NCIC’s goals focus on increasing math proficiency in students who receive free and reduced lunch; increasing teacher’s understanding of factors that contribute to the achievement gap and strategies designed to close those gaps; improved school climate, as reported by students; increasing teachers and staff of wider racial and ethnic backgrounds; and increasing participation in the collaborative’s out-of-school programs.
  • Approved a series of bond pre-payments related to a 2010 middle school project that included additional classrooms and energy efficiency updates. The bonds - which will be paid off at $890,000, $430,000 and $1.1 million - were set to mature in six years or more. The early payment will eliminate the debt from taxpayer rolls.