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North Branch Schools

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January 20, 2020

12/26/2019 2:00:00 PM
Budget, fitness center and future enrollment among topics for last board meeting of 2019

With many students and staff looking forward to the holiday break, the Chisago Lakes School Board held their last meeting of 2019 on Thursday, December 12.

The meeting doubled as the Truth in Taxation presentation by Director of Business Services Doug Hasler.

Hasler noted that the Total Certified Levy this year will grow by just over 5.09 percent from $10,494,322.68 to $11,028,769.79. Much of the growth has to do with adjustments for a growing student enrollment.

Board member Lori Berg did note the sharp decrease in the building lease levy from $280,464 to $138,790, which is a direct result from the new buildings that were built from the last referendum, eliminating the need for some leased buildings for the district.

The general fund budget approved from June 2019 was discussed, with the total deficit still $77,000.

“We are monitoring current year expenditures and revenues, and may initiate budget reductions based on what we are projecting for current year, and/or fiscal year 2020 shortfalls,” Hasler said. “Our certified levy is increasing and this would certainly contribute to an overall tax increase, as would any increases other local taxing units might be approving this year. I know that Chisago County's levy is going up by 5.75 percent. I don't have information concerning the proposed levies for other taxing units, but I anticipate that there may be other increases that may factor into the overall tax increase.”

Student representative  Mason Vitalis brought a concern to the board in his monthly update, saying he has spoken with multiple students-athletes who felt it wasn’t fair that they were paying a fee to play a sport, but then also had to pay to use the community center in non-practice hours.

He said that the previous weight room was open at any time for athletes to use free of charge, and he used to go in before school to get a morning workout to go along with his regularly scheduled practice. Now, he was only able to work out in the alloted sport practice time after school unless he paid the monthly or year fee of the community center.

Superintendent Dean Jennissen said the district is “working it out” as far as their athlete scheduling. Board chairman Mark Leigh also chimed in, saying “We are working our way through it. There has certainly been some conversations on it, especially with the community center committee.”

Dr. Ray Queener of Teamworks International was on hand for a presentation regarding the district’s potential growth over the next five years. By their demographic data, the total population of the school district will grow 5.9 percent to 24,643 by 2024. Queener said their study then  projected the district itself to grow by 5.4 percent by 2024. Open enrollment shows 241 resident students open enrolled to a different school district, but 368 students in the district are non-residents that open enrolled.

Additionally, private and charter schools remain a concern for enrollment. There are 70 CL student-aged residents in a private school and 216 enrolled in a charter school on top of the public school enrollment.

Queener said some possible key next steps would be determining reasons for attendance elsewhere and consider strategies. Board member Berg mentioned that many students open enroll into the language immersion school, Lakes International Language Academy in Forest Lake. “We would love to provide a language immersion section,” she said. “But there’s a cost to it. We know where a lot are going and why.”

The board voted to increase substitute pay from $120 per day to $130. There has been a shortage of sub teachers, and even instances of teachers accepting a sub position within the district, only to cancel last minute when they got a higher paying sub job in a neighboring district. Currently, Stillwater and North Branch pay $130 per day and Forest Lake pays $120 to subs.

Hasler said it will come at a cost of nearly $24,000 per year, but many times, current teachers are filling in on their prep hours, and that ends up being a very similar cost anyway.

The board was also hoping a raise can help stem the tide of sub shortages.

At the end of the meeting, it was announced that longtime Community Education Bob Meyer was leaving his post to become the Executive Director of the Minnesota Community Education Association. Meyer’s last day will be in January, as he still plans on being at next month’s board meeting. The district is in the interview process right now with potential replacements.

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