11/14/2013 4:37:00 PM District will be eager to apply levy to its needs
by DENISE MARTIN
The Chisago Lakes School District will be applying new levy money to three areas of concern, following the successful excess levy referendum last week. The voter-approved funding will generate $225 per pupil unit, for next school year. This is in addition to per pupil unit revenues that the state legislature authorized individual districts to adopt that local voters were not required to cast ballots on. The Chisago Lakes School Board voted to drop an existing $400 per pupil funding levy and replace it with a $300 per pupil tax collection authorized by the state. This cleared the “locally adopted levy” slate for presenting a new local levy to taxpayers asking for $225 per pupil unit, which passed. All Minnesota districts were also made eligible for LER-- which in Chisago Lakes, means an extra $424 per pupil unit in “Location Equity Revenue,” a new state/local supported revenue stream.
The statewide general fund aid formula was also increased by $78 per pupil unit as of next year (with a promise of $80 the following year.) Superintendent Joe Thimm submitted a personal thank you to the taxpayers-- which is printed on the Opinion page in this edition. He also commented on areas where the district hopes to direct the funding. The School Board will await enrollment numbers for next school year, Thimm said, to better understand which grade levels will see student populations grow or decline. At this point in time Supt. Thimm hopes to see elementary grades K, 1 and 2 get funds for reducing numbers of kids in the classroom by hiring more teachers. Technology integration specialists are also needed in the district, he added. Chisago Lakes has embraced new technology but there is a need for personnel to make sure people are instructed in the use and to see to it that devices are working the way they should. Taylors Falls School, for example, saw its media specialist cut to half-time in recent budget reduction measures and this position may go to full-time. Security is the third area the superintendent identified. The entries to the middle and high schools are at the top of the list for improvements. Cameras also need upgrading throughout the district’s facilities, Thimm said. In the next several months the Board and administrators will be finalizing expenditures.
This was a good year for districts seeking locally-approved funds. According to MN School Boards Association, out of 57 levies on ballots, 50 of them passed. Building bond or capital project authorizations were granted by voters in 23 of 26 referendum ballots. Correction Also, in our report last week on the Tuesday referendum outcome we mistakenly said a $200,000 property will be taxed an additional $14 per month by the school district to support funding increases. This is the amount for a $250,000 property. A $200,000 valuation parcel will be taxed an added $11.42 monthly to support the new levy.