The Spring Grove Public Schools held its annual Truth in Taxation public hearing before the regular school board meeting on Monday, December 18. The board unanimously approved an increase in the property tax levy of $1,042.979.00 or 156.7%.
Superintendent Rachel Udstuen thanked everyone for attending and explained that there would be time for questions at the end of the presentation by Jeff Seeley, Senior Financial Advisor, Ehlers, Inc. Udstuen explained that there is a change this year due to the voter-approved referendum.
Seeley methodically described the Truth in Taxation process, reviewed the school’s 2024 budget, and the impact of the voter-approved referendum. Some of the factors that impact individual taxpayers’ school taxes are: changes in the value of individual property; changes in the total value of all property within the district; and increases or decreases in levy amounts caused by changes in state funding formulas, local needs and costs, voter-approved referendums, and other factors.
By Minnesota state law, property owners are given an opportunity to ask questions during the public hearing. Questions Monday night revolved around the ag credit which grew to 70% from 40% and is now fully implemented. Seeley answered that at the state level, there is talk about increasing the ag credit and that there has not been any discussion about decreasing it. He also reviewed the three state property tax refunds and deferral programs: Homestead Credit Refund; Special Property Tax Refund; and Senior Citizen Property Tax Deferral. Lastly, Seeley confirmed that “pupil count drives total revenue, and that property tax drives what percent is aid and what percent is levy.” Spring Grove has a total of 353 students.
Spring Grove farmer Myron Sylling addressed the board, emphasizing that he is in favor of “doing some improvements” to the school, but he believes that the referendum was a “ridiculous amount of money.” He thinks the outcome would have differed if the voters knew how much the $12,195,000 general obligation bonds would cost them over 22 years. Sylling pleaded, “As a school board, I really ask you to reconsider or hold back releasing this referendum and the bonds for sale. I really want you to dig into your hearts.” He asked the board if they wanted 25% of the people to dictate what the other 75% want? Sylling concluded by stressing, “It’s not right.”
The pre-sale report confirmed that the bond is for 20 years with the call date being 2032. A competitive bid will be made nationally. The current interest rate is 4.2% and is coming down, which has not been seen in four or five months. The board unanimously approved the resolution authorizing the sale and reimbursement of the $12,195,000 general obligation school building bonds.
The board unanimously approved the consent agenda as written, including the meeting agenda, minutes from the November 20 regular board meeting, the treasurer’s report and claims, the contract with Brian Anderson as custodian, and the 2023-24 seniority list.
The second presentation of the evening was the 2022-23 audit by Manager Luke Greden of Clifton Larson Allen (CLA.) CLA issued a “clean” audit report. A clean audit means “the auditors found no issues with the company’s financial reports, and the company is in full compliance with GAAP guidelines.” Source: www.onboardmeetings.com. The board unanimously approved the audit report.
Student Representative Taylor Reinhardt reported on behalf of the student council that $1,161.59 was given to the Houston County Food Shelf in December; $444.59 was from the K-6 corn war, $217.00 was from the bags tournament, and $500.00 was from the staff sunshine fund.
Principal Luke Kjelland announced that the third annual staff versus senior basketball game is scheduled for December 22 at 2:30 p.m. He reminded the board that the staff is undefeated. Kjelland thanked the school’s new social worker, Lexi Thorson, for all her work organizing the school’s Giving Tree, noting that “it was a phenomenal success.” He went on to share that the CNA class is “one of our prouder achievements and partnerships over the past couple of years.” Five students enrolled in the CNA class this fall and just completed their labs and test. He shared that the Gundersen recruiter is meeting with the students on Tuesday, December 19, to discuss future opportunities and programs through Gundersen.
Assistant Superintendent Gina Meinertz thanked board member Jaster for sharing information about a grant that would cover the cost of replacing a much-needed AED in the school. The school received the grant.
Superintendent Rachel Udstuen clarified that the schoolhouse the school plans on removing northwest of Spring Grove is not the “beautiful brick schoolhouse” but is the Otterness schoolhouse that has collapsed.
In other business, the board:
•Did not take any action on the early retirement incentive request from Deb Morken. Morken’s request will be discussed at the January board meeting.
•Approved the second reading of the MSBA model policy updates.
•Approved the 2023-24/2024-25 master agreement.
•Approved the resolution to combine polling places as is done every December.
•Approved the resolution regarding the purchase of the motel property. The school plans to use the property as a parking lot.
•Adjourned the meeting at 8:37 p.m.
The next regular meeting of the Spring Grove Public School Board is Monday, January 16, 2024, at 7 p.m. in the school’s Learning Resource Center. The meeting is open to the public. In addition, the school continues to offer board meetings on Google Meet for anyone who would like to attend virtually. For assistance monitoring the meeting, contact the district office at (507) 498-3221 or email email@example.com