The Kingsland School Board heard concerns over inflation and state funding at it’s annual Truth in Taxation meeting on Monday, December 19, and legal concerns over a conflict of interest regarding incoming board member Steve Tammel’s leadership position with the Kingsland Athletic Booster Club.
Truth in Taxation
School Business Manager Julie Schrieber gave the presentation. She stated several figures that are changing the way the district is budgeting including increasing property valuation, inflation, and the Ag2School tax credit.
“Increasing valuations can lead to less state aid for a school district,” Schrieber explained. “The state has something called equalization so that larger, wealthier communities don’t have an unfair advantage over smaller, rural districts,” explained Superintendent Scott Klavetter. “The state’s calculators take your total dollar amounts of all the assessments and they divide that by how many students living in your district… the more money you have locally, the more the state will expect you to pay locally.” What that means is the district has been put into a different ‘tier’ because of increased land values. Klavetter added that some are trying to get the numbers reviewed by the state and adjusted for inflation.
Second is the rising cost of operations. “Inflation is wreaking havoc with all budgets and school districts around,” Schrieber said. They experienced 8% inflation in fiscal year 2022 will only a 2% increase in state aid.
Thirdly, Schreiber reported Kingsland is one of the largest users of the Ag2School in the state. “Kingsland has one of the largest amounts of giving back to landowners for Ag2School – the dollar amount is $565,930.” Ag2School is a tax credit that was passed in 2017 which offers reductions in taxes for farm and timber owners.
During the board’s regular meeting, they unanimously approved a tax levy of $2,813,541.98 with little discussion.
Incoming board member concerns
School board Chair Kyle Rader brought up a possible conflict of interest involving recently elected and incoming school board member Steve Tammel’s involvement in a booster club and the potential conflict of interest that could create, according to MSBA (Minnesota School Boards Association) Journal.
“School board members are not prohibited from serving or volunteering booster club activities, neither are they prohibited from being members of booster clubs. However, school board members who choose to be involved should be aware of possible conflicts of interest in legal compliance issues,” Rader read.
Rader reported that a legal opinion has been sought by the district’s attorney and that if there was further concerns that forwarding it to the state attorney general’s office would be the next step, unsure if the court would even respond.
“I think what this is going to make us a little more careful in the future… as far as voting on things like coaches, accepting a donation… I think we’re going to have to have a paper trail,” Rader said.
“When I saw this on the agenda this month, I was very upset,” said board member Miranda Emig. “This is another instance of grey areas that are pulling money from the general fund that should be going to our students that are now going to our lawyers… This is not one time a year, this is multiple times a year!”
The board recognized outgoing board members Maranda Emig and Natasha Howard. Rader commented that much has happened in the four years they have served. “You’ll be missed, and your time is definitely appreciated.”
On the transportation report, it was reported there are some “tweaks” happening because the department is waiting for a part to fix one of their buses. It was emphasized that it does not affect routes, but it has affected flexibility in evening sports.
Klavetter informed the board about a project to fill the duties of a special education teacher who is on FMLA leave. He says this “creative solution” involves the use of one Kingsland teacher and a SMEC (Southern Minnesota Education Consortium) employee to cover the paperwork portion of the job. Both items to facilitate the projects were approved.
Finally, the board voted for a combined polling place at the Spring Valley Community Center to serve as the location for the special school board election this coming November.
The school board’s next meeting, work session and organizational meeting will be held on Wednesday, January 4 at 6 p.m. in the Kingsland Elementary Conference Room.
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