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Fillmore Central to bond for retiree benefits

Fri, Oct 31st, 2008
Posted in Education

PRESTON - The Fillmore Central School Board passed a resolution to set the sale of OPEB (Other Post Employment Benefits) Bonds at its October 28 meeting. The bonds will be used to pay for retirees' health insurance for the next 20 years. The 2008 Minnesota legislature passed legislation allowing school districts to pay off the bonds through a local tax levy.

Fillmore Central is currently paying, on average, $50,000 a year out of the General Fund for these benefits. Post-employment health insurance is no longer offered to new employees, and it is estimated the district has another 20 years of paying for its retiree obligation. Bonding for the amount will free up money from the General Fund.

Superintendent Myrna Luehmann said that an actuarial study determined that the district's retiree benefit obligation was $1.18 million over 20 years.

One concern at the meeting was that the legislature might change the law when it re-convenes.

"I think we have a short window to do this," said board member Ron Stevens. Stevens said that he had spoken with one legislature who said the law might be revoked as the state faces a more than $2 million deficit.

"This allows us to generate revenue we may not get any other way," said board member John Torgrimson. "But there's no question, it is going to raise taxes."

Stevens added that taxes could be raised anyway. "If the state freezes us the next two years, then what do we do?"

Board member Deb Ristau was concerned about bonding for the total amount. "I would rather do some of the funds this way, and with the rest, run a referendum and let the people vote on it."

"I think that setting up this payment plan instead of pulling out of our general fund is a good choice for our district," said Sue Ostrom.

The tax impact on a $100,000 home would be $24 per year. The impact on one acre of Ag land would be 50¢ per acre.

The board approved proceeding with bonding, with Deb Ristau voting in opposition. The district has the right to reject the bonds if they come in at a higher rate than anticipated.

District Property

Fillmore County Recorder Dave Kiehne was at the board meeting to explain some property that was recently discovered to belong to the school district.

There has been some confusion about who owns a piece of land that the Boy Scouts are currently using for camping near Preston. Kiehne found that there is a once-acre piece that was owned by the Preston Junior Chamber. When they dissolved, they deeded it over to the school district in 1965.

Kiehne said the legal description of the land owned by the school district doesn't match up with the land being used by the boy scouts. In fact, the district's one acre is being farmed while the boy scouts are camping on private land.

According to Kiehne the options are to do nothing and leave things as they are, or to do a quit claim deed to take the school out of ownership. Since the cost of fixing all of the confusion could run $2-3,000, the board voted to take no action at this time.

Principal Reports

K-8 Principal Luehmann mentioned that Dean of Students Chris Mensink was meeting with chaperones for the seventh grade Eagle Bluff trip. The students will be spending two nights and three days at Eagle Bluff Environmental Center.

During the teacher workshop on October 15, Social Worker Danette Grimsrud hosted a workshop on warning signs of mental illness in children. There will be no school on November 7 for another workshop day.

High School Principal Heath Olstad said the high school was currently celebrating Red Ribbon Week. Members of SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) were hosting activities for all students grades K-12, and there were dress up days as well. The high school had a speaker talk to the students about drug and alcohol abuse on October 27.

Staff Changes

The board approved some minor changes in staff hours. Connie Berg, the ECSE (Early Childhood Special Ed.) teacher, will have her FTE hours increased from .5 to .675. Transition Specialist Alice Bigalk will have her hours decreased from .25 FTE to .2.

Jennifer Lindstrom was hired to fill a 4.5 hour paraprofessional position at the Elementary School. Two paraprofessionals at the Root River Program had their hours decreased due to low numbers.

Other Business

The board approved snow removal bids for the year. JD Snowplowing will be at the Harmony site and Mensink Landscaping will be in Preston.

The school Fees and Rental Schedule will be looked at by the Facilities Committee and Custodial Supervisor Blaine Moe. The list of fees for things like copies, paper, laminating and rental of facilities hasn't been looked at for many years.

Two additional winter coaches were approved. Joe Cullen will be the Assistant Wrestling coach and Deb Ristau will coach 7th grade girls basketball.

The board also approved the following:

• An open enrollment request from a family in the Kingsland area

• The staff seniority list

• A Field Placement agreement with St. Mary's University for a student teacher in high school biology and chemistry classes.

Board members will be meeting on Thursday, November 6 at 12 noon to canvass and certify election results.

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