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Emmetsburg School Board Approves Budget, Tax Asking Decreases

By Staff | Apr 5, 2011

Budgets, summer projects, and board members were discussed during the March meeting of the Emmetsburg Community Schools Board of Education.

“We published our budget for the 2011-2012 school year, in the newspaper, at two-percent allowable growth. We cannot decrease our allowable growth after we publish and pass this budget,” explained Superintendent John Joynt. “However, if the state legislature passes zero-percent allowable growth, it will automatically be lowered.”

According to Joynt, the tax asking will be $12.61 per $1,000 of taxable valuation for 2011-2012. This rate is $1.48 per $1,000 less than last year.

“Taxes could possibly go down another seven-cents to $12.53, if the legislature passes zero-percent allowable growth,” Joynt noted.

“That’s a pretty dramatic reduction.”

Joynt continued, “Our spending authority has built up because we haven’t taxed for everything we could and we haven’t spent everything we could. To maintain the program we have, we will need to use our spending authority if we have zero-percent allowable growth. We should be good for another couple years and then we may need to look at reductions of some sort. The most painless way is to offer a large and generous retirement package like we did a year ago to bring down costs.”

“How much of our spending authority do you think we’ll use if our allowable growth goes down to zero-percent?” asked Tammy Naig, board member.

“Hopefully, we won’t use more than $80,000 to $100,000 a year,” Joynt answered. “We can do that for two years.”

The 2011-2012 budget was adopted by the board.

In other business, the board members considered several PPEL (Physical Plant & Equipment Levy) projects for the coming summer.

Proposed projects include: carpet four high school classrooms ($8,000), replace windows on the high school’s south side ($15,660), install a storage room door by the refrigerator compressors ($4,000), widen the driveway in front of the middle school ($20,000), and add a ticket booth on the high school’s south side ($18,000). These projects total $65,660.

Other summer projects to be paid from the Nutrition Fund would include a fire suppression system ($4,500) and an update to the air conditioning ($3,000) for a total cost of $7,500.

Several board members noted that the driveway in front of the middle school was often under water, perhaps due to the new construction of the middle school building.

“I’d like to widen the driveway in front of the middle school to make it less congested when parents and buses are picking up students, and try to educate people on where to drive,” Joynt explained.

“What purpose will we serve by widening it?” Naig asked.

“So a car could get by. We really struggle to get a bus by when a car is parked there,” said Joynt.

“Is that going to be money well spent? We’ve been trying to educate people for two years on this. I don’t think any amount of education is going to change anything,” Naig said. “I would hate to see a kid get hit out there with all the traffic on King Street and in the driveway.”

Board member Don Hagen suggested the lane be made narrower to allow only one vehicle by at a time.

“Would it be possible to create another separate road? One that was for buses only and another for cars only?” Hagen suggested. “And then you start giving tickets for misuse of the lanes. Tickets would quickly educate people.”

“At West Elementary, we made a change in dismissals. Students being picked up by parents are released five minutes earlier than those waiting for the buses,” West Elementary Principal Matt Pugh shared. “It’s worked pretty well.”

“I kind of like that idea better,” said Laure Egland, member of the board.

“We can do it in phases,” said Joynt.

“So, do you feel to get rid of the pond out in the driveway that widening will take care of it?” wondered Board President Karla Anderson.

“You could do a curb cut and put a rain guard in there,” said Hagen. “It’d be a $3,000 to $4,000 project. Maybe the college horticulture students or our FFA students could use it as a project. They’re really quite beautiful.”

According to Hagen, an eight-foot area would be dug out and filled in with pea rock, glass, sand, and dirt so that it would absorb and hold any run-off. Aquatic plants and native grasses would be planted in the area.

The Facilities Committee will meet to discuss their options to remedy the driveway issues in front of the middle school.

The board approved all projects, except the driveway project.

In other business, the possibility of transitioning from a seven-member board to a five-member board was discussed.

“There are advantages, but disadvantages. With seven members, we have to find four people to run every four years. Then, every two years we’d have to find three people to run,” Joynt noted. ” With five members, it would be three and two.”

Currently, Don Hagen, Linda Tienter, Laure Egland, and Steve Pelzer have seats up for re-election in September. The seats occupied by Karla Anderson, Tammy Naig, and Kim Campbell will expire in September 2013.

“You would have to bring it to a vote of the people if you’d want to go to a five-member board,” said Joynt. “That wouldn’t happen until 2015.”

“We talked about this a few years ago, I think we have a lot more diversity with seven members,” Anderson said. “If you go to five, it’s not as much. With a five-person board, if you have someone who’s very influential, you can affect the vote much easier than with a seven-member board.”

“It doesn’t cost the school any more to have seven members than it does five members,” said Hagen. “I think the extra input from seven members is more beneficial.”

With no further discussion, the board decided to remain as a seven-member board.