December 17, 2009 at 8:24 a.m.
The levy supports next year's budget.
The budget doesn't get finalized for several months because state funding is on a July to June fiscal year, whereas property taxes are done January to December.
If that seems complicated, the district finance director also explained the 18 categories that the district is allowed to levy for, and then there was an update on the status of teacher wage negotiations for a contract that expired in July 2009.
Property tax collected from property owners who live in the district covers just 16 percent of North Branch district revenues, said Randi Johnson, Director of Finance. The state provides 72 percent, federal aid is three percent and various outside sources supply the remainder.
Johnson said North Branch expects to get $5,207 in general fund money per pupil in 2010, from the state. The high end of this per pupil funding statewide is $6,901. North Branch is among the three lowest general fund recipient districts in Minnesota.
The 2010 levy was reduced for some funding categories, but increased to raise money in other areas-- so overall the levy is up from 2009 about two percent or by approximately $122,000. North Branch local levies were $6,681,400 last year and for 2010 should be $6,803,505.
Because of the contraction in the real estate valuations, this will look more like a 4.3 percent increase on a basic property in North Branch. Johnson said this assumes no change in your property market value-- which probably won't be the case, most valuations for tax purposes have gone down.
North Branch employs almost 400 people, and the majority of its annual budget is in wages and benefits. Johnson said this is why, whenever North Branch is addressing a gap between revenues and expenditures the "cuts always translate to staff."
In the update on negotiations, the Board reports the teachers' union first came in with an approximate $4,300 hike for salaries and benefits annually for the two-year contract at an estimated cost to the district over two years of 9 percent. The teams were $2.25 million apart.
The district is trying to achieve no increases in this two-year contract due to persistent budgeting shortfalls, stagnant state aid, declining tax revenues and a host of other issues.
The last offer from the teachers requires about a seven percent hike in expenditures over the two years of this contract, or wage and benefit increases of $3,380 in year one and $4,175 for year two. The Board and the union are still $1.75 million apart, it was reported by Chair Kim Salo.
Custodians' negotiations are also not final. Donna Setter, on the negotiating team for the Board, said the gap is $115,000 annually, in what the custodial group seeks versus the freeze the Board wants.
Superintendent Dr. Deb Henton asked the Board members to consider having North Branch participate in the "Race to the Top" grant program offered federally. The U.S. Congress allotted about $4 billion to be made available to qualifying states in this new education initiative. Minnesota will apply and could get $175 million statewide. Dr. Henton said North Branch is well-positioned to receive some of this.
The state requires that North Branch submit an application by January 13, so the Board may need to call a special meeting to authorize the letter of application.
The Board officially accepted donations, including: $167 through the Land-O-Lakes milk caps for Sunrise River School, middle school got $219 from Domino's Pizza and Children's Hospital (research institute) gave the high school athletic department $100.
In public comment, art instructor Tim Moriarty shared an emotional story of a special student.
Christina Thornborough spoke of the need to "talk in one voice" in the district. She said the referendum didn't pass and never will pass, unless there's a better relationship between the employees and Board. Budget cuts also need to be "research based" and not done on the criteria of what's easiest, or how much public outcry the cut will create.
Carla Norelius presented the proceeds from the Walk for Change event held in the fall, $906.