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Taxes to decrease: New Richmond School District sets levy, mill rate at annual meeting

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District Administrator Patrick Olson gave a presentation about the state of the district and also talked about the district's strategic plan (see videos) during the Sept. 19, 2016, annual meeting. (Photo by Jordan Willi)4 / 4

Videos produced/shot by Jordan Willi

School board approves name of district farm during regular meeting

The School District of New Richmond approved a tax levy of $14,899,301 and a mill rate of 11.356 at its annual meeting Monday, Sept. 19.

“The district is in good financial health and that is basically because we are growing,” said Director of Fiscal & Building Operations Brian Johnston.

“Growing districts are in better shape than districts that are declining in enrollment. I think over the last 12 years, our rate of growth has been 1.6 percent on average, so that has helped us tremendously.”

According to Johnston, the district’s equalized value looks like it will go up 5.02 percent from last year, which puts the number at $1,313,000,000.

The tax levy for the 2016-17 school year is budgeted to go down by .08 percent from last year, while the mill rate is down .579 from last year.

Given those numbers, a property valued at $100,000 will see a decrease in taxes of about $58, while a property valued at $200,000 will see a decrease of $116.

“Taxes are flat, they will not be going up this next year,” Johnston said.

“We budgeted $1.5 million to tear down the old middle school and we are doing that out of fund balance, so we are not increasing taxes this year to do that.”

During the budget review, Johnston said the fund balance is currently at $8.3 million, but once the district pays for the demolition of the old middle school, that will drop to $6.8 million.

Even with the significant drop in fund balance, the district will still be within their policy guidelines of keeping their fund balance at 16 to 20 percent of expenditures. Part of the reason the district is able to do this is because they levied high last year — $400,000 over — and there were leftover funds from last year’s budget that can now be put toward the demolition.

Johnston also said that another factor in this year’s budget is the fact that state aid went up by $100 per pupil, which helped push the total revenue the district is getting up by 1.4 percent, with .4 percent of that increase coming purely from the district’s growth in population.

Also approved during the meeting was the authorization of the district to make temporary loans for current operation and the authorization of the district to sell district property that is not needed for school purposes.

The assembled residents also voted to keep the school board’s salaries flat and to authorize the reimbursement of the board members for actual and necessary expenses.

The district also approved the establishment of accident insurance for students.

Regular meeting

The New Richmond School Board met for its regular September session following the annual meeting to discuss the old middle school and the district farm.

One of the more talked-about portions of the meeting dealt with the naming of the district farm and the approval of the fundraising structure for the farm.

After a few minutes of discussion about their favorite name on the short list — which included Tiger Educational Center, SDNR START Center and SDNR BALANCE Center — the school board came to the consensus that the district farm should be named the School District of New Richmond SOAR Educational Center.

SOAR stands for “Student Opportunities with Agricultural Resources.”

“I really like the first one (SOAR) from the dream perspective because nobody else is doing this and this is a dream we have in New Richmond,” said NRHS agriculture teacher Rachel Sauvola.

“It is very symbolic as well, especially with the airport’s involvement, and the name really speaks to the lifelong learner.

“Our learner could be anyone from a little kid on up to an elderly person who is learning a skill or teaching other students.

“That’s the type of resources that are coming together as a result of this idea, so I really like the first one (SOAR).”

Along with approving the name of the district farm, the board also approved the general fundraising structure for the capital campaign that will be put together to guide the district farm to reality.

According to District Administrator Patrick Olson and Sauvola, the plan currently has two ways for people to contribute to the funding of the district farm: the “Buy A Brick Program” and a monetary donation system that is set up using names of animals instead of using bronze, silver and gold.

The plan is still fluid and only a framework, Olson said, but he and Sauvola wanted to have something in place to show to the New Richmond Community Foundation when the district farm representatives met with the group on Tuesday, Sept. 20, given that the foundation has agreed to help out the district with their plans for the farm.

One of the other big items talked about during the regular meeting was the approval of CESA 10’s recommendation for the contractor to handle the abatement of the old middle school.

CESA 10’s recommendation was to contract Dirty Ducts Cleaning, Environmental and Insulation, Inc., for the base cost of $48,400, with possibility of adding three alternates/additional pieces of work to the contract should they be necessary.

The final projected cost, including the first three alternates, would be $57,514, according to the Dirty Ducts bid.

The contract would cover liability, indemnity, prevailing wage and other standard concerns, along with ensuring environmental safeguards and adherence to all applicable federal, state and local laws and guidelines critical to protecting the district during building demolition.

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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