October 21, 2010 at 8:33 a.m.

North Branch enrollment numbers clearer, Board referendum meeting with public was Oct. 14

North Branch enrollment numbers clearer, Board referendum meeting with public was Oct. 14
North Branch enrollment numbers clearer, Board referendum meeting with public was Oct. 14

The North Branch School District released enrollment numbers last week, based on a few weeks of steady attendance numbers, and the district attributes the four-day schedule being responsible for the loss of 15 students this year.

The rumor mill in town contends hundreds of students enrolled out because of going to no-Mondays.

Board Chair Kim Salo stressed the importance of getting accurate information to the public.

The district questioned all parents enrolling youngsters into and out of the district. The no-Monday schedule that was initiated this fall was cited by 15 who submitted official change of school, and transcript transfer forms.

The total population is 3,305 a decline in population of 176 from the 2009 school year compared to 2010, in all grades in traditional school. The numbers don't include ALC, Step Program and other special ed students.

The cumulative loss was mainly due to relocating, with surveys from 137 citing having to move out of the North Branch Dist. Others cite daycare location, closer to workplace, etc.

Charter schools and on-line schools got some open enrolled students, and Forest Lake, Rush City and Chisago Lakes enrolled most of the others.

Chair Salo also said she'd heard talk around town the district bought a $300,000 copier, which is utterly inaccurate.

There was a question during the public referendum meeting about pay hikes for administration, and the Board stressed there's been no wage increases in administration. The chunk of the budget dedicated to administration in North Branch is well below the state average of what other districts expend.

The School Board met in regular session from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. October 14 before opening the meeting to the public on the upcoming referendum questions.

In other business the Board was introduced to Kelly Detzler, who has been hired for a re-configured administrative position officially termed middle school assistant principal. (The assistant principal Todd VanErp took the activities director post vacated when Mike Cunningham went to another district.) Detzler has lived in the Almelund area for about 12 years and comes from St. Paul schools.

Demolition of Mainstreet School was awarded to Landwehr Contractors for $329,000. Bids ranged up to $497,000. The site will be left in a ready-to-develop state including up-sized sewer and water service.

During the public information session on the upcoming ballot questions, Randi Johnson, finance director explained that school boards don't have the authority to raise a local levy. City councils and county boards can increase taxes but schools have to be authorized to do so.

Johnson said state "equalization" has declined over the years to where it is only about 20 percent in North Branch, of any levy sought for pupil unit revenues.

The referendum questions seek to raise enough to avoid immediate cuts of $1.4 million and future anticipated shortfalls. Question 2 and Question 3 would raise $730,000 annually each.

The first levy question must be approved to activate the additional two questions.

The whole three question levy asks for basically $150 in taxes per $100,000 of your property's value.

For agricultural classified parcels you estimate the home, one acre and garage as value for purposes of a school levy. (The county assessor can calculate this value for you.)

Johnson said in the event parcels lose assessed value during the 10 years of the levy; the district still gets its $700 per pupil funding total (all three questions) and any difference in ability for local parcels to generate this is filled in by the state.

North Branch asks for $700 total per pupil unit while the state average in local levy revenue approved is $936, Johnson added. North Branch has zero in local levy money approved at this time.

The district provides facts and figures and charts about its budget and revenues at the district website www.northbranch.k12.mn.us.

Superintendent Dr. Deb Henton told the meeting attendees the district "can't wait for the state" to make adjustments in the funding aid sent to districts and there's only one chance to educate a student adequately.

Henton responded to a question about consolidating.

She said merging with another district is not off-the-table, but right now no district nearby has room for over 3,000 students. North Branch is sharing staff, programming and resources wherever possible.

The four day week is projected to be saving North Branch $174,000 in its first year.


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