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August 23, 2019

7/18/2019 3:28:00 PM
North Branch School Board takes cue from survey, no levy referendum coming this year

Summertime school board meetings are historically quite brief and last week’s North Branch School Board meeting was no exception. With Superintendent Deb Henton and Board member Kevin Bollman absent--North Branch Middle School teacher Kevin Grote, was first recognized for being named recipient of the annual Education Minnesota Central (Region) Outstanding Leadership Award.  Grote was chosen by his peers.

North Branch District Financial Director Todd Tetzlaff, in his first official duty succeeding Jon Ellerbusch, said Grote is truly a leader. Grote chairs his science department and co-chairs the North Branch Education Association and is a calm and constant presence in union-district meetings.

Meanwhile,  the negotiations for the next multi-year employee contracts continue.  North Branch School Board member Tim MacMillan said there have been two sessions with the teachers since last  month’s Board meeting and the next one scheduled is July 16.  

Board member Darryl Goebel reported the custodian contract negotiations have developed an “initial proposal” and the next session is August 7.
In other business:

The memo for the contract with  North Branch Police Department for a School Resource Officer was adopted.  The school’s share of the SRO is $27,838 for the school based services of one officer, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The garbage hauling was awarded to Terry’s Disposal, for $3,071 per month. The only other quote was Waste Management at $5,693 monthly
The fuel bid went to Beaudry Oil & Propane at $1.84 gas and $2.01 diesel.  The companies bid their mark-up from the terminal price, delivered.  Federated and Petroleum Traders Corp. were the other two considered.

~ Resignations from Tech Ed instructor Irv Geary and from Sunrise River Elementary Asst. Principal Rebecca Johnson were accepted.

In public comment,  the new head of the charter school Phoenix Academy and the new Academy Board Chairman introduced themselves.  Jim Gagner comes from the Marshall School District plus he is a 30-year Air Force servicemember.  He complimented North Branch on the district’s respected Junior ROTC program. Jarrod Hamlin is an academy student parent who recently volunteered for the Board there.

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North Branch School Board has determined that now is not the time to seek a property tax levy increase through a referendum.

The Board decision came after reviewing results of a taxpayer survey, done mostly by phone, with a small percentage by e mail.  Survey-takers spoke with 350 registered voters in the district, between June 13 and 17.  The majority of those who participated in the survey were female, although the registered North Branch District voter list is 49 percent male and 51 percent female. Over 80 percent were homeowners versus renters.

The survey revealed that a referendum resulting in, at most, a tax hike of $20 per year, could have a chance of passing.  

Voters showed little support for any referendum resulting in a larger tax hike.  The survey asked about $60, $100 and $140 increases annually and support dropped to less than half at $60.

This “tax aversion” measurement revealed that a full 33 percent of those surveyed would never support ANY tax increase for the schools.

Other questions were for  getting a feel for what the survey participants think of the district.  The ‘grades’ the survey takers would give North Branch were mostly ‘B’ and ‘C’ with 19 percent having no opinion. Seven percent gave an ‘F’ and seven percent gave the district an ‘A.’

Survey services were  provided by Baker Tilly Virchow Krause LLP (formerly Springsted.)

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