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Fillmore Central School Board meets with Representative-elect Davids

Fri, Dec 26th, 2008
Posted in Education

PRESTON - Representative-elect Greg Davids spoke to the Fillmore Central School Board during their regular meeting on December 22. Davids, a former Representative, will once again be representing southeast Minnesota at the capitol in January.

Davids came to talk about the state of the economy and answer questions from the board members.

"I wish I was bringing you the $2.2 billion surplus we had two years ago," he said.

Right now, the state's budget has a $4.6 - 4.8 billion shortfall for 2009-2010. But that number doesn't account for inflation, according to Davids. "It also factors a rosy forecast for Capital Gains tax collection," said Davids. He explained that a good Capital Gains tax depends on an upswing in the stock market, and he doesn't think that money will be there. He believes the deficit will be closer to seven billion dollars.

Davids mentioned the $4.7 billion deficit the state had in 2003. At that time, the state had other funds to help balance the budget, including a rainy-day fund that helped them out.

"This is a different ball game," said Davids. "I need your help, and I'm asking for it tonight."

Many people have suggested taxing the rich to get more revenue for the state. Davids said when the rich are taxed, the revenues actually go down. He said that lowering taxes actually brings more money for the treasury.

"The question is what kind of tax can we get the most revenue from without hurting us down the road," said Davids.

In January, Governor Pawlenty has to present the final budget. "It's going to be very, very difficult," said Davids. "You can't tax your way out of it, and you can't cut your way out."

Board member John Torgrimson asked about cuts in K-12 education, which covers 40 percent of the total state budget.

Davids said that while there will most likely be some cuts in education, he feels that Health and Human Services will have more cuts.

"There could be some cuts," he said. "I don't see how we're going to get around it."

Ron Stevens asked if it was possible to change anything so local school boards could have more authority to work with the budgets. "We're kind of limited to what we can do, said Stevens. "Our hands are tied."

Davids agreed that local people have a lot more understanding of what's going on than anyone else. He suggested that there are some policy issues, and he would be willing to look into anything that would help out.

Torgrimson also asked about a wind tax for wind turbine generators in the area, as school districts have been cut out. Davids stated he was all for a wind tax, and has spoken to many people in the business. In the past, the wind tax money was split up and six percent went to schools, 80 percent to counties and 14 percent to cities.

"The tax could bring the local government up to $500,000 in the first year alone," said Torgrimson. "We could really benefit from that."

Superintendent Myrna Luehmann asked if there was a certain area of education that would be looked at for cuts more than another area. Davids answered that nobody could really answer that question right now.

Davids was trying not to give too negative of a picture of what is to come in the next year. "I'm Mr. Optimist," he said. "We're tough, we're Minnesotans, we can get through anything."

Positions Review

The board wanted to look at how the administrative restructuring is going with the Dean of Students Chris Mensink's and Luehmann's new positions. Mensink has gone from part-time Dean to full-time, and Luehmann has taken on the duties of K-8 Principal as well as Superintendent.

Mensink began by saying that communication between him and Luehmann has been excellent. He has been keeping track of extra time he has put in, and has made a few additions to his original job description. He added organizing testing and attending IEP (Individual Education Plan) meetings. Luehmann agreed that the communication is going well, and that they speak to each other at least daily. She added doing the Friday Falcon to her job description, as well as AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) committee meetings.

Luehmann recommended the board keep the arrangement, and also asked the board to extend her contract one more year. She has been enjoying her new position and working closely with the children. No action was taken on the contract, but the updated job descriptions were approved.

Board member Sue Ostrom asked Mensink about the fifth grade class. She was wondering if they are being considered an elementary grade as opposed to middle school. This year the class is self-contained, meaning they do not change classrooms throughout the day. Mensink said there were some issues last year with students being overwhelmed. They had no homeroom like they had the year before. Mensink said the new arrangement will allow the kids to adjust to the middle school gradually, and ease the transition. During second semester the class will be involved in Team Time and more middle school activities.

Facilities Committee

Board member Craig Britton spoke for the Facilities Committee about an upcoming project. He said the committee made up a wish list of things they want to have done with the buildings. One of their jobs is to prioritize the list, and they feel that getting a new HVAC (Heating, Venting and Air-Conditioning) System for the schools is a high priority.

As for paying for the project, Britton spoke of alternative bonding options. The energy savings of the project would help to pay for the project itself over 15-20 years. Britton explained that a Feasibility Study would be needed for the bonding, and the study could be paid for out of Health and Safety money. The study would cost approximately $30,000 and would take about three months.

Britton also mentioned some rebates that could be available. "It would be nice to upgrade the air quality," said Britton. "At some point, this will have to be done." He added that the entire process could take a couple of years, and it's not something that will be done very soon.

The board approved the study using Health and Safety funds.

Other Business

The board approved the following items:

• A stipend increase for Mensink. His stipend has not been increased since he became full-time Dean of Students. It was increased $1,000 to $3,750.

• The 2008 payable 2009 tax levy at $1,566,753.25

• Increasing the hours of two paraprofessionals at the elementary school

• Hiring Jackie Whitacre as a Middle School Speech Advisor

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