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Fillmore Central gives preliminary go ahead to bond for retiree benefits

Fri, Sep 26th, 2008
Posted in Education

Jim Schmidt from Springsted spoke to the Fillmore Central School Board at their Tuesday, September 23 meeting, about bonding for Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB). State legislation allows for school districts to bond to pay for retiree benefits. The district would then be able to levy to pay off the debt on the bond.

Post Employment Benefits include health insurance for district retirees who receive the benefit until they are 65. Right now Fillmore Central pays retiree benefits out of the General Fund. Bonding for the money would free up those funds to be used elsewhere.

Once bonds are sold, the funds are placed in a trust. Schmidt recommended going with PERA (Public Employees' Retirement Association), and he also recommended going with a revocable trust instead of irrevocable, as it will allow for more flexibility. According to Schmidt, putting the money in a trust will allow the district more long term investment possibilities.

The school board passed a resolution to proceed with OPEB bonding as the deadline to notify the Department of Education is September 30. The district is awaiting results of an actuarial study that will show the exact amount of the potential retiree liability. The district can bond for all or part of the total liability.

The school board will discuss the implications of OPEB bonding at their next meeting, including whether to issue bonds as well as the tax impact it would have on property taxes.

Schmidt said if the district proceeds they would look at selling the bonds in November or December.

The board also approved the preliminary tax levy payable in 2009 for $1,402,993.70. This amount is up $56,000 from last year's levy.

Superintendent Evaluation

Chairperson Sue Sikkink said that she and vice-chair Deb Ristau met with Myrna Luehmann regarding her job performance as Superintendent during the last school year. A survey was sent to 17 administrator's and school board members for feedback.

Thirteen surveys were returned. Sikkink said that one of the weaknesses people noted was communication skills. Luehmann's strengths were her dedication to the district and her financial knowledge. Sikkink and Ristau talked with Luehmann about working on her communication skills and setting goals for the future. In all, Sikkink said it was a good evaluation and Luehmann is doing a good job.

Ristau mentioned the survey used is the same one that was used to evaluate the principals. Board member John Torgrimson noted that the summary was pretty general and there were not a lot of specifics about the goals. He feels that she is doing a satisfactory job, but has questions and concerns.

Sikkink said those things would be discussed further at a mid-year review. The board needs to know how the new job positions are going for Luehmann and Dean of Students Chris Mensink.

There was some discussion about whether or not December would be too soon to do another evaluation on Luehmann. A motion to have a review in December along with a review of the new position failed, with only Torgrimson and Ristau voting for it. The board decided to look at the new positions in December, but to wait until a later date to do another performance evaluation.

Ristau wanted to make sure that Luehmann's personal evaluation and the review of the new job position were kept separate.

"I don't want it to reflect on her personal evaluation if the position [superintendent/elementary principal] is not working out," said Ristau. She wants both Luehmann and Mensink to be able to tell the board how things are going in the new administrative structure.

MSBA Meeting

Ristau and board member Sue Ostrem attended an MSBA (Minnesota School Board Association) meeting recently. They talked about some of the issues that were brought up at the meeting and some of the things that people want to bring forward to legislature.

The board approved having Ostrem write something about open enrollment issues for the next meeting. The board discussed some of the concerns about transportation costs with open enrollment. Luehmann said it is unlikely that open enrollment will ever go away, although the issue is discussed all the time. The major reason people like open enrollment is for choice.

Torgrimson also brought up an issue about getting property taxes on wind energy generation restored. Ristau said there were some other issues about energy that were brought up as well. She also said that it's very important that there are delegates there representing the rural communities.

Principal and Dean Reports

High school Principal Heath Olstad said the recent Open House for parents had very low numbers. They are looking at making some changes to get more people to come. Olstad said the new [9th grade] parents thought it was great to go through their child's schedule and meet their teachers.

English teacher Gerri Nielsen took some advanced placement workshops over the summer and the district will now be able to offer an AP (Advanced Placement) class where students can receive college credits. Nielsen came up with a syllabus that was approved, and there will be an AP English class second semester. Students have to pay to take the AP exam, and if they pass they will receive college credit for the class.

Dean of Students Chris Mensink said that homecoming went well, and all students K-8 were able to attend the pep fest and the parade in Harmony. He also mentioned that the seventh graders will be going on a two night, three day field trip to Eagle Bluff Environmental Center. Knife River will be matching funds, and the price for each student will be $53.50. They are working on raising funds to lower that cost even more.

Other Business

• Coaches for winter sports were approved.

• Holly Kanengeiter, Community Education Director, wanted to acknowledge two advisory board members that are leaving their positions. She thanked Jim Johnson and Don Berkeland for their time and dedication.

• Luehmann mentioned that they have set up a meeting with Community Ed. and the cities of Harmony and Preston to discuss the city covering Summer Rec. costs. She said the Park Board manages summer recreation in other communities in the area.

The board approved the following:

• Advertising for snow removal bids for the next two years;

• Luehmann as a K-8 504 Coordinator;

• Three open enrollment requests;

• Graduate Credit reimbursements for Holly Kanengeiter, Chris Mensink, Gerri Nielsen, Jill Eerdmans and Betsy Sullivan;

• Putting money in a BRC Trust Account so that insurance lawyers can negotiate final payment with the company that did tuckpointing at the high school.

• The sports sharing agreement with Mabel-Canton Schools.

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