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Finances and an early start

Mon, Oct 4th, 2010
Posted in Education

Fillmore Central Superintendent Myrna Luehmann painted a bleak picture of the state's financial situation at the recent school board meeting. She had attended a MSBA (Minnesota School Board Association) meeting the week before, where the state's deficit was discussed, as well as what it means for school districts.

According to Luehmann, Minnesota may have a $5.7 billion deficit. "I realized there is no way we can cut or tax our way out of 5.7 billion dollars," said Luehmann.

There are three things the state is considering to help with this deficit. One is a clothing tax, which could bring in about eight million. They could increase income taxes for people who make more than $250,000 a year. The state is also considering building a Racino, a combination horse track and casino, which could bring $250 million to the state.

Luehmann also mentioned the possibility of another shift in funds from the state. Last year the state sent the school districts 70 percent of their funding, and shifted 30 percent to a later date. According to Luehmann, they are now considering a 50/50 shift.

"Even if they did all these things, and took away all LGA to cities, we would still need 1.5 to 2 billion dollars," said Luehmann. "Where is that going to come from?"

She also mentioned rumors of the state cutting their funding to schools by $1,000 to 1,500 per pupil unit. They have not increased their per pupil unit funding in several years. Luehmann said this cut is what would hurt the worst.

Levy and Referendum


The board approved a preliminary levy for 2011, with a final to be decided by December. The levy they approved is a decrease of 1.5 percent from last year's levy. The total levy, which includes debt service for bonds for the elementary school, the HVAC project, Community Ed. and the general education, is a total of $1.4 million.

There will be information meetings held in October. These meetings are for the public to attend and express their concerns, ask questions, and gather information about the upcoming referendum that will be on the ballot this fall. The meeting in Preston is on October 12, after Family Night at 7:30 p.m. There will be a meeting in Harmony on October 19 at 7:30 p.m. in the high school media center. The meeting in Fountain will be on Wednesday, October 27 at 7:30 p.m. in the Fountain Community Center.

Jobs Bill

Luehmann said they are still waiting for word on stimulus money for school districts, but it is supposed to be coming in October. Fillmore Central will be receiving $104,000, which Luehmann stressed is one-time money. There are strings attached to this money as well. The district has the next two years to spend this money or it goes back to the state. They are advised not to start any new programs with it, as it is not sustainable. Luehmann said it was intended for schools to bring back people that have been laid off. It should not be used for anything involving special education, or for counselors or social workers salaries.

"It's not the best timing for school districts," said Luehmann. She said if the school does not use any of the money this year, it could send a message to the legislature that the money is not needed. If they spend it all in one year, there will be nothing for next year.

Luehmann said it would be best to use some of it this year and some next year. It can be used to "prop up" programs that might otherwise be lost. They could also use it for school readiness programs.

Coaches and Staff Changes

The board approved the list of winter coaching positions as recommended by Athletic Director Jane Montgomery. In boys' basketball, Heath Olstad will be the head coach. Keith Larson will coach the B squad team, Aaron Jannsen the 9th graders, Tris Tollefson the 8th graders, and Steve Lindstrom the 7th grade.

Sara Tollefsrud is the varsity head coach for girls' basketball, with Aaron Mensink and Deb Ristau coaching junior high.

Joe Cullen is the head wrestling coach, with Alan LaFleur assisting. They will be posting for another assistant coach, as they don't know the exact numbers of students coming from Mabel-Canton and Lanesboro yet. It is possible they won't need another coach.

The board also approved the hire of new part-time custodians. Jill Hoover will be working at the Harmony site, and Deb Schott at the Preston site.

The employees for Community Ed. were approved. These included employees who work for the daycare, Early Childhood Special Ed. (ECSE), Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE), and School Age Child Care (SAC). Kelly Jo Krenzke will be a SAC aide, Janet O'Connor will be the ECFE Parent Educator, Kim Underbakke will be working in the infant room of the daycare, and Kami Kramer in the preschool room of the daycare as an aide.

The board approved graduate reimbursement credits for three teachers. They also approved lane changes for four people. Luehmann said that three teachers received their Masters Degrees in the last year: Aaron Jannsen, Jodie Daniels, and Chris Mensink. Also, Julie Seibenaler, the elementary special ed. teacher, finished some classes improving her special ed. licensure.

Principal and Dean Reports

Both Principal Heath Olstad and Dean Chris Mensink said the new school year has gotten off to a great start. Olstad said the seventh and eighth graders are adjusting to their new building and everything is going smoothly. He complimented the staff and families for helping things run well.

Homecoming was on Friday, October 1, with a dance being held on October 2. Colton Hampel was crowned Homecoming King, and Connor Nagle the Homecoming Queen.

Both buildings have students that are doing fundraisers right now. The 5-8 grades are doing their One and Done fundraiser. The band and choir will be doing fundraisers soon as well.

Board member Sue Sikkink mentioned that her daughter is shipping cards and ornaments to troops in Iraq that elementary students have made for them. She thanked the art teacher, Ann Sparks, for making the project part of her art class.

Flexible Learning Year

Luehmann informed the board about a consortium of schools in Minnesota that are starting school earlier in the year. There are 25 schools right now that have approved the program and started it this year.

Luehmann said there are a few reasons for starting school before Labor Day, one of which is having ten more days of instruction before MCA testing in the spring. The semester would end at Christmas and a new one would start in January if school started the third week in August. The calendar would be in sync with area colleges as well.

Luehmann said she would not look into it any further if the board was not interested at all. The board agreed that she should pursue it and bring back some more information.

Extra-Curricular Schedule Changes

Luehmann suggested some adjustments to the extra-curricular schedule. First, the board approved adding compensation for the seventh and eighth grade advisors at the high school as a $200 stipend. Melissa Onsager will be the eighth grade advisor, and Jodie Daniels the seventh grade. Olstad mentioned at the high school they will be working on floats for the homecoming parade and other activities that other advisors are compensated for.

The board also approved putting the flag corps advisor stipend on the schedule. They also discussed summer hours for the band director. Luehmann said the current schedule has 120 hours, and this includes lessons for fifth and sixth graders, as well as band camp. She asked about reducing it to 80 hours, which would mean no lessons for sixth graders. She added there is no separate fee for band camp; it is part of the band fees paid by the students. There are also more students in band this year than last year.

Board member Sue Sikkink felt that if it was in the budget, it should be kept at 120 hours to keep the band strong. The board approved.

Other Business

The October meeting date was changed to Wednesday, October 27 at 6 p.m. at the Fountain Community Center. This meeting will be right before the referendum information meeting at 7:30.

Open enrollment requests for five students were approved. Three are from the Mabel-Canton district and two from Lanesboro.

The board also approved the Annual Report on Curriculum, Instruction, and Student Achievement. Luehmann said this will be posted on the school's web site.

The board approved increasing an ECSE teacher's time to a .8 FTE due to two new students.

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