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School increases tax levy by 8.5 percent

Two district patrons attended the Kenmare Public School District’s public meeting held Monday night to discuss the 8.5 percent increase in the property tax levy for 2011.

9/21/11 (Wed)

 

By Caroline Downs
 
Two district patrons attended the Kenmare Public School District’s public meeting held Monday night to discuss the 8.5 percent increase in the property tax levy for 2011.
 
Business manager Renae Murphy explained the district is allowed to levy up to 110 mills under state law, but has not done so in the past. The district has focused on a dollar amount needed for the budget rather than a particular number of mills.
 
In 2010, the dollar amount levied was $899,986.80, equivalent to 97.62 mills for the General Fund. In 2009, the amount levied was just over $803,000, or 99.30 mills. Both years, the state made a mill levy reduction payment to bring the district’s total mill rate to approximately 185 mills.
 
“This year, we felt we should get the most mills we are allowed to get,” Murphy said, citing an increase in regular expenses and last year’s building project as financial needs for the district.
 
For 2011, the district will levy 106.02 mills, which should generate an estimated $1,008,000.00. Murphy described the numbers as estimates, with the actual taxable evaluation for the district not available until December. At the present time, the Ward County evaluation has risen three percent since last year, and Murphy said she expected the Kenmare district to see a similar increase given the fact most of the district’s property was situated in the county.
 
The district also covers small portions of Burke, Mountrail and Renville counties.
 
The current Kenmare district evaluation is close to $9.2 million, with Murphy expecting that amount to rise to $9.5 million this year.
 
The state’s mill levy reduction payment for 2011 will be $662,571.00, as reported to the Kenmare district.
 
“We eventually are hoping to get to 110 mills,” Murphy said, “but [according to state law] we can only go up a certain amount every year.”
 
In order to levy more than 110 mills, the action must be approved by voters, but Murphy emphasized the Kenmare district was not seeking that amount of money.
 
District 6 Representative Glen Froseth asked if the increase in mills was necessary to fund technology purchases after the special technology mill levy was rejected by voters in June.
 
“That had no bearing on this decision,” Murphy said.
 
Froseth also briefly discussed enrollment numbers with the board and the impact of those numbers on state funding.
 
No complaints or comments against the proposed 8.5 increase were made. The estimated increase has already been factored into the district’s budget for the 2011-2012 school year.
 
Bills to pay, or not
Murphy reported the district’s General Fund to have a balance of just over $500,000. Board members discussed the status of a few bills presented for payment, including two bills outstanding from Mayer Electric, Inc. and Kipp’s Plumbing & Heating for work done on the high school renovation project.
 
Superintendent Duane Mueller reported a few small projects remained with both contractors, with Mayer scheduled to arrive September 21st to finish their work.
 
The task of balancing the heating and air exchange systems cannot be completed by Kipp’s until the furnace is started for the winter.
 
Another bill that generated quite a bit of discussion came from the City of Kenmare for $255 in janitorial services. “Our people go down there and clean,” Murphy said as she explained her reluctance to pay the bill.
 
Board members talked about issues with cleaning after events not related to school activities. Craig Ellsworth suggested a representative of the city could call the school business office and explain a particular problem, with the high school custodians then addressing the issue, before hiring the work done.
 
Mike Zimmer reviewed the current agreement with the city for the use of the Memorial Hall and pointed out a statement about the school furnishing janitorial services and supplies for the restrooms and shower area. Board members agreed the statement might be too vague as written.
 
The board approved all the bills for payment as presented, with the exception of the two contractor’s bills. Those bills will be paid when the necessary work is finished.
 
Lenny Rodin asked about payments for the portion of the Kenmare Fitness Trail nearing completion around the perimeter of the high school property. The district agreed to contribute $25,000 toward that project.
 
 “They haven’t asked us for that money yet,” Murphy said. She added that she was looking at grants available to the school to fund that project and discussing the grant applications with project coordinator Fay Froseth.
 
Michele Nelson asked about the status of the federal Fresh Fruits and Vegetables grant the district received this year to provide a healthy snack to elementary students on certain days each week. Nelson explained to other board members the funds could be used to buy the fruits and vegetables, purchase equipment, or cover administrative costs related to the project.
 
Murphy said a separate line item would be maintained for the grant expenditures. “Since this our first year, we’ll spend it on the food and see how it goes,” she said.
 
Enrollment continues
to increase
Superintendent Mueller discussed the issue of enrollment with board members, with 295 students attending classes in Kenmare as of September 19th. “Kindergarten and the fourth grade have been hit hard with new students,” he said.
 
As of Monday, 19 students were enrolled in kindergarten, although that number has been higher this school year. The fourth grade class has 27 students. Mueller told the board to expect more fluctuation in enrollment numbers as transient families moved in and out of the area, as their work requires.
 
Mueller asked board members to start thinking about options for creating more classroom space, if elementary enrollment numbers continue to climb. State law requires classes in grades kindergarten through three to be divided with enrollment at 25 or more students, while 30 students is the threshold number for grades four through six.
 
Currently, the first and second grade classes are served by two teachers, and Mueller said projections for next year already indicate two sections of kindergarten will be necessary. “We’re tapped out for classroom space at the elementary school,” he said.
 
In Other Business:
• Board members approved the minutes of the August meeting.
 
*The board added an item to the agenda in order to discuss a non-tuition waiver request. Board members then approved the request for a high school student who recently arrived in Tolley from Arizona.
 
• Ellsworth and Nelson discussed their observations of the teacher inservice day held immediately before classes started in August. Both board members were impressed by presentations regarding the school improvement process for the district. “I don’t think many people realize how the teachers are involved in school improvement,” Nelson said. “I thought it was very positive.”
 
“You really see how they build on each other’s strengths,” added Ellsworth. “We discussed ways to get that information out to parents.”
 
• The board reviewed the district’s annual insurance quote of $9,170.00. Coal quotes were also discussed, with the only quote for Wyoming coal, as required by the district, coming from Minot Coal at a base price of $90.95 per ton, with an additional charge when fuel costs are above $3.00 per gallon.
 
• Board members approved a teaching contract for Michael Johnson in high school math.
 
• The board approved the district’s annual audit, as presented.
 
• Board members planning to attend the North Dakota School Boards Association annual convention in Bismarck, scheduled for October 27-29, include Lars Christensen, Jan Kostad, Johnson, Nelson and Rodin. The district’s voting delegates will be Johnson and Kostad, with Nelson as an alternate.
 
• High school principal Robert Thom announced presentations regarding suicide and bullying, led by Dr. Bob Edwards of Minot, were being scheduled for October 10th. Dr. Edwards will hold sessions with the students in 7th, 9th and 11th grades, as well as meet with the school’s staff separately. Parents and other community members will be invited to a public presentation that evening.
 
• The Transportation Committee, with members Ellsworth, Nelson and Christensen, will meet Wednesday, September 28th, at 8 am.
 
• The Policy Committee, with members Christensen, Johnson and Kostad, will meet September 28th, at 8:45 am.
 
• The Lunch Committee, with members Nelson, Rodin and Zimmer, will meet Tuesday, October 4th, at 8 am.
 
• The next regular meeting of the Kenmare School Board will be held Tuesday, October 18th, at 7 pm. All scheduled meetings are held at Kenmare High School.