The yearly Truth in Taxation hearing was held at the beginning of the regular Rushford-Peterson board meeting December 18. Using the MREA template, Business Manager Toni Oian presented the proposed taxes that will be collected in 2023-2024 and used to finance the school for the 2024-2025 school year.
The state continues to lag behind inflation in its funding. Funding will trail by $1,282 per pupil unit in 2024 and $1,356 per pupil unit in 2025. Because of this, the school and local taxes need to make up the difference.
The total 2023-2024 school year budget shows a positive $21,205; only the Community Education budget ends with a negative amount(-$73,097). The Community Education budget is affected by the expense of preschool; the board transfers funds to support this investment in the education of the R-P young students.
The Ag2School credit will remain at 70%; this credit goes to farmers and timber owners – not the school. R-P is in the largest quartile for Ag2School credits. R-P farmers and timber owners receive over $353,663 in Ag2School credits. The revenue for the Ag2School credit comes from state income, sales, and other tax revenue.
R-P currently has an operating referendum of $530 per pupil unit. The percent change in total taxes for this year will be up 11.49%. Individual taxes may go up more based on a change in valuation of the property and its calculated tax capacity.
After the presentation, time was provided for public questions and comments. One resident addressed the board asking why his taxes showed a 46% increase. Superintendent Ben Bernard suggested that he meet the next day to go over that tax document to check it. Bernard noted that his own taxes had also seen a jump.
Following the Truth in Taxation hearing, the board went on to certify the levy for 2023, payable in 2024 for a total of $2,358,160.53. The actual tax statements will be mailed to residents in March.
In new business, the board approved the $2,165,00 payment of the general obligation school building bond. This payment represented $1,725,000 principal and $440,000 interest.
The board continues to review its policies with two readings. The only changes in policies other than basic formatting changes, were changes to expense reimbursement based on the location of the event; events in the cities obviously require a higher reimbursement than local events.
Accepted resignations in personnel included Jessica Pohlman, food service assistant, and Joe Hatch, assistant golf coach.
Superintendent Bernard reported that student enrollment has been remaining steady. Lunch and breakfast participation rates have gone up markedly. Bernard credited the free school meals program as well as changes made this year by Kari Blum and the R-P food service staff. A board member pointed out that the uptick in high school participation was particularly telling. Bernard shared that there had been “zero complaints” this year about the food.
Elementary principal Angela Shepard shared details and pictures of events in each grade of R-P as well as the whole school Christmas concert and book fair. In this way, the board could share in the holiday excitement at the elementary.
The Student Ambassadors, under the direction of social worker Kelly Smith, adopted a new initiative this year, the SAVE (Students Against Violence Everywhere) Promise Club. The group has chosen to greet all students and staff in the morning with a smile and high fives. In addition, each member chose one staff member they were grateful for and asked them to join them in their morning greetings December 5.
Middle school/high school principal Jake Timm shared the honor rolls for both the middle school and high school, He noted that of the 55 middle school students on the A honor roll, 14 achieved a 4.0. Of the 66 high schoolers on the A honor roll, 29 earned a 4.0.
Activities director John Loney reported that youth sports have had a good turnout. A K-2 basketball program is being run by Dr. Bernard and 15-20 basketball players and has 69 students registered. The grades 2-6 program has 61 boys and 29 girls. Youth wrestling preK-6 had 62 registrants.
The next R-P school board meeting will be held January 22 at 6 p.m. because of Martin Luther King Day on January 15. The public is welcome to attend; a public comment period is offered during the meeting.