Kingsland school held the annual Truth in Taxation public hearing on December 17, just prior to the regular board meeting. All members were present (Doug Plaehn, Ann Oeltjen, Leah Stier, Jackie Horsman, Tiffany Mundfrom, student representative Zachary Queensland, and Superintendent James Hecimovich). Approximately 40 citizens were in the audience.
Doug Plaehn started by stating, “The old levy that your tax statement is based on won’t be the levy that is going to be presented tonight… What happened is, we’re working on the Indoor Air Quality project… We have to set our levy with the state back in September/October. We put in a number for that project; however, that financing is still in process.”
Business Manager Amber Herbrand then gave background info about the levy process and guidelines. She explained, “Points to remember are that those revenue formulas are set by state legislature, except for voter-approved referendums. Local levy and state aid mix are set by the state legislature. And, an increase in local taxes does not necessarily mean an increase in revenues for the school district.”
Herbrand showed that the initial proposed Payable 2019 Levy was $3.2 million, but that the amount now being discussed is almost 40% lower, at $1.9 million. Regarding where the 2019 school taxes will be used, she said the largest share, 54%, would go to debt service, 42% would go to the General Fund (instructional programming, health and safety, etc), and 4% to Community Education Fund.
A handful of citizens individually addressed the board to share their concerns with the tax burden as it impacts each of them. Some spoke of being on a fixed income. Others talked of the large increase in the levy compared the previous years. Steve Majors said, “When I opened up the preliminary levy statement, I was shocked. And obviously it looks like I’m not going to be as shocked,” but he still questioned the large increase.
Regarding the factors that caused the large increase, Superintendent Hecimovich responded, “It was a perfect storm, I’ll be the first to admit to you. When I look at the referendum market value, it jumped up $128 million, and we don’t control that.”
Doug Plaehn said, “There’s nothing more complicated” than the funding for Minnesota schools, and he welcomes citizens to go the Minnesota Department of Education website to see for themselves. He added that the Indoor Air Quality project is moving forward, but that the 2019 school board will have to figure out the financing for that. The board voted to approve the $1.9 million levy as proposed.
During the regular board meeting, the hiring of Eaen O’Byrne as evening custodian and girls JH basketball coach was approved, as a part of the consent agenda. Public thanks was given to donors, including Valley Lanes, Marilyn Erdman, State Farm Companies Foundation, volunteers at the Community Ed Youth Basketball program, Spring Valley Chevrolet, Target, and VFW Post 4114.
Regarding enrollment trends, Steve Majors asked if Kingsland continues to do “exit interviews” with students or families who are leaving Kingsland. Plaehn said Kingsland does continue to ask reasons for leaving when families choose to “open enroll out” but that most of the recent loss in enrollment has been families who are actually relocating away from the school district. Majors also advocated for “accountability” regarding the construction projects done by the district. He said when things don’t turn out well, it’s always up to the taxpayers to foot the bill.
The board voted to renew the varsity football coach contract with Brent Stinson for the 2019-2020 school year. Jackie Horsman voiced appreciation and a farewell to outgoing board members Doug Plaehn and Ann Oeltjen. The board’s next “work session” will be Monday, January 7 at 6:30 p.m. in the conference room. The next regular board meeting will be Wednesday, January 23 at 6:30 p.m. in the choir room. As always, the public is welcome. The newly elected board members will begin serving in January.