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January 18, 2019

12/20/2018 1:35:00 PM
Taxes creep up in 2019; new Business Services Director chosen

Not surprisingly, taxes are headed upwards in 2019 for residents within the Chisago Lakes School District.

The tax increase comes from two factors: the $65 million bond that was approved in the spring, and for some higher special ed costs within the district. For an average $200,000 home, school taxes will go up from roughly $895 per year to $917 per year, an increase of  $22 per year.

The numbers were a part of the annual Truth-In-Taxation hearing that preceded the regular Chisago Lakes school board meeting on Thursday, December 13.

Interim Director of Business Services Heide Miller, who is briefly returning to her role after the departure of Greg Anklan, did note that the district also had a deficit of $861,777 from the 2017-18 school years that would need to be taken care of eventually.

She said the deficit came mostly from Special Education as state aid has fallen, but the need for more teachers and specialized classes has grown.

With new district offices being constructed as part of the new elementary school in Chisago City, the old offices have been converted into the special education offices and classes, which will save the district nearly $172,000 per year in rent, they were paying that in a lease agreement with Fairview Medical Center.

In some tough news for the district, a number of bids came in for the Taylors Falls Elementary remodel that was part of the bond, and the lowest bid was still $400,000 over what the district had budgeted.

John Kuenstling, the district’s Project Manager from ICS Consulting was on hand and explained a couple of reasons for the high bid. He noted the high tariffs that have recently been imposed on raw materials, as well as a severe shortage of local masonry workers as reasons.

He also thought they would get bids from a wider range of companies, but he said all of the bids came from companies in the Twin Cities.

The low bid out of the eight companies was Weber Incorporated of North St. Paul. They came in at $3,197,000. The next closest bid was from Rochon Corporation at $3,239,000. Kuenstling said he was confident in the work that Weber does and that they are a very reputable company.

Kuenstling said that dollars will be available after some shuffling. There was a turn lane that was no longer required at the new elementary school that was eliminated, and there are savings from storm water projects that came in under budget.

There were some sizeable donations to the district in this quarter. The board received a private $5,000 donation in September for families in need at Taylors Falls Elementary, a $1,000 donation from the Center City Fire Department and another $500 donation from a resident. Tom Lawlor, who was participating in his last school board meeting before his term is up, announced that Lakes Area Recreation Association would also be donating $2,800, with $1,000 earmarked for each of the soccer programs, and $800 to the volleyball program.

On the same night that Miller presented the Truth-In-Taxation hearing, her replacement was on hand to take in his first Chisago Lakes School Board meeting. Doug Hasler was chosen as the next Director of Business Services. Hasler will be officially taking over in January from Miller, who was only serving temporarily when the former director departed after less than a year on the job.

Hasler was the Chief Financial Officer for Duluth Public Schools.

He reached a separation agreement with the district after he was placed on paid administrative leave  following a preliminary budget and final budget proposal the Duluth School Board was not satisfied with.

Superintendent Dean Jennissen and Miller were both very confident in the hiring process and the work that Hasler will do with this district.

“We were aware there was a ‘story’ in Duluth.  We vetted Mr. Hasler thoroughly and felt comfortable bringing him in for an interview.  Through the interview process it was clear Mr. Hasler was the best choice for the position,” Jennissen said.

“We did additional referencing after the interviews and continued to hear the same things we saw in the interview: Transparency, honesty and integrity at the top of the list.  Mr. Hasler is well-qualified with years of experience and background in public schools.  The community will find him to be approachable, personable, articulate, capable, reflective and confident.  These were words the interview team used to describe him after the interviews.”

Miller followed up saying Hasler was “stuck between a rock and a hard place” in reference to his time in Duluth. She said he has been an impeccable administrator in his 20-plus years between the Indiana school system, the Indiana Department of Education and his stint in Duluth. Miller, who was a part of the hiring committee, said, “We had 10 people on the committee and we all agreed that Doug was a rockstar,” she said.

Student enrollment is trending upwards slightly. It’s not as big an increase as last year, but, “We’re still ahead,” Superintendent Dean Jennissen said. “Not as good as last year, but still ahead.”

The district has 3,426 students in its schools, up from 3,400 at this time last year.

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