District 88 levy approved

NEW ULM – The District 88 Board of Education on Thursday approved a local tax levy of $6,212,183 for 2014. This amount represents a decrease of $33,035, or 0.54 percent, from taxes payable in 2013.

Business Manager Myrna Meunier explained the major increases and decreases in the levy. Major changes include:

Operating funds generated by local referenda will decrease by $270,019, she said. This funding is based on legislatively-set formulas, Meunier explained. Several components of these formulas have changed, hence the decrease. The difference will, however, be made up through state aid.

An operating capital levy will go down by $89,015. These funds are used for technology, facility maintenance and other capital expenses. Funding for operating capital is provided though a combination of state aid and local levies. The state decreased the levy ratio, so less funding is from levy and more from state aid, said Meunier.

The health and safety levy will go up by $146,862. The change is because the estimated state-approved projects related to the prior levy did not include a fire safety door project at the high school and other smaller projects.

The levy for retired employee health benefits will increase by $170,645. This levy includes the actuarial calculated cost to have retirees on the district health insurance plan.

The levy for re-employment costs will go down by $35,088 because staffing is currently stable in comparison to the last few years.

A “student achievement” levy will go up $69,148, as a result of a re-instated state rule.

The debt-service levy will decrease by $47,133 because 2006 bonds were refinanced to decrease the cost to tax payers.

No comment was made during the public hearing preceding the levy approval.

The Board also approved a contract with the union representing support staff. The union of paraprofessionals and health aides had already approved the agreement.

The increase in cost for the school district as a result of the new two-year contract is $53,382 for this year and $55,068 for next year. The total financial package increase is 6.52 percent.

Specifically, all employees in this union will receive a $0.25 per hour raise in each year. Those who qualify for longevity will earn an additional $0.25 in year one and $0.30 in year two. The board will also match retirement savings based on years of service, with the match ranging from $75 to $150 annually.

In addition, the Board approved an allocation of community service funds, in the amount of $4,500, to Community and Seniors Together (CAST) for 2013-14. These funds are an earmark for programming of this kind.

The Board approved some amended policies, the new element being mostly the inclusion of language that refers to educating “the whole child” – encouraging students’ social, emotional and physical growth and well-being and their civic engagement, not just academics.

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