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October 22, 2018

9/21/2018 11:51:00 AM
North Branch School Board celebrates JRROTC, sets 2019 levy

There were four of six School Board members in attendance at last week’s North Branch School Board meeting to congratulate the Air Force Junior ROTC program participants on recent honors.  (Mindy Michaud resigned over the summer, due to moving out of the district and Cathie Pascavage was absent.)

The  officers’ group was introduced by North Branch High School’s Colonel Paul Johnson.  He said North Branch’s program is known for being student-led and its options for participation.  There’s a color guard, marksmanship team, drill team and several other breakout groups that give students, who have varying interests, choices.  

The organization’s “one key mission” Johnson said, is to “...develop citizens of character.”

The JRROTC members received certificates from the school board at the start of the meeting.

The main order of business was to vote on a preliminary levy for 2019.

Jon Ellerbusch, Finance Director, explained how the district ordinarily sets the maximum allowed by state formula based on market valuation and tax capacity of the district.  This is what the Board adopted 4-0.  

Between now and December it can be decreased but is not allowed to go up.  

Out of $31 million total of all levies, the state aid in 2019 is estimated to be $21.8 million.  

North Branch’s General Fund, one of the largest of its 20 different levy categories, is dropping by $292,492.

The school board will hold an informational taxation hearing for the public December 13 and get more detail on the budget, which is a work in progress.  

The first payment on this levy will be in May 2019.

Taxpayers, however,  get their tax statements in the mail in November-- so the impacts and levies shown are considered estimates.

Schools in Minnesota have multiple distinct levies that roll into one tax statement. They range from funding school employee retirement accounts to expenses for health and safety related projects at sites,  and everything in between.  

Ellerbusch said North Branch will also apply its Long Term Facilities & Maintenance revenue to debt service, which is $962,000 (of which $424,000 is local levy raised and the rest is a state aid formula.)  

Much of the impacts providing funding for the voter-approved levies for on-going capital projects, additions, remodels and an operating levy have been felt already as of last year’s taxes.  

Ellerbusch added that with North Branch (property) market valuation improving and as new homes generate added property tax, it’s hard to state the tax impact on any individual parcel for 2019 at this time.

Those referendum projects are moving along, school principals reported.  No serious issues are being encountered except high school parking is squeezed right now.  At the middle school the referendum projects restricted the ability to hold Open House for older students and parents, greatly dimishing turnout at the grades 6,7 and 8 orientations.  

But, Principal Tetzlaff said improvements to traffic patterns through reconfiguring the exits and parking lots and front entry-- are well-received.  New “bright cheerful spaces” have been built into the school as part of the remodel, and HVAC equipment and systems upgrades are appreciated for “improving the learning environment.”

P.S. Tetzlaff said, the middle school still has an open position for lunchroom supervisor.

Superintendent Dr. Deb Henton remarked that district officials understand people are eager to see the new amenities and remodeling at all the sites -- but the district is going to wait until everything gets completed and schedule tours next year.

She distributed her signature start-of-the-year talisman --which is a bracelet for 2018-2019-- that has the words “It starts with me” on it.  Henton said for 11 years she distributed pins as a team builder.  She also expressed for those in the school board audience, how grateful the district is for the supportive vote as taxpayers allowed funding for much needed improvements in the district.

The school board has three seats on the ballot this November-- the two expiring and the special vote to fill the Michaud seat.  Chair Kirby Ekstrom and Sarah Grovender have filed for re-election along with Kevin Bollman and Chris Kester.

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