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1.42% tax levy increase approved at SCC

The St. Croix Central School Board held its budget hearing and annual meeting on Monday, July 27, in the high school media center.

Attendance was at a minimum. Three of the seven school board members were not able to make it. Only one community member not employed by the district was at the meeting.

But business went on as usual.

A tax levy of $5,936,781 and an approximate mill rate of 0.00978237 was approved by all in attendance. That's about a 1.42 percent increase in the levy from the 2008-09 school year.

"That's pretty flat considering we lost $750,000 in property value," commented board member John Hueg. That was the estimated property value loss in the district reported in March. Up until last year, property values were increasing in the district.

Expenses that are up from last year include salary and benefit increases, an added elementary teacher, added MAP testing, more CESA curriculum consultation, new science textbooks and a new bus purchase. There was also $150,000 set aside for facilities maintenance.

"That's what we've done for the past few years," said Jen Kirkham, district accountant, in regards to the $150,000.

A total of $25,000 was added to the budget for Community Education this year. The program was started during the past school year and has been successful.

Community Education is a benefit to everyone in the district, commented Hueg.

The district is saving money by paying off bus leases, saving about $7,500 in interest payments. Using an energy consultation service should save about $21,000 after contract expenses. Switching heating, ventilation and air conditioning maintenance providers will save about $22,000. Student insurance costs have also decreased about $6,000 from the 2008-09 school year.

Additional funds of $240,784 will come to the district through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. All that money is part of the 2009-10 school year budget, Kirkham said.

Board President Howard Kruschke said the board has tried to increase student achievement through some of the added expenses, like MAP testing and the CESA consultant hours.

"We're hoping that's going to help us in that effort," he said. "It should be money well spent."

Hueg observed that a fair amount of expenses were being channeled from facility-type expenses, like lighting, into pupil services.

"I'm happy to see that," Hueg said.

Also approved at the annual meeting:

• Renting 4.8 acres on the west campus in Roberts to Mark Hamlin at a rate of $40 per acre, for a total cost of $192 per year. Kruschke explained that Hamlin is the only person able to get to the land. Either the district can rent it to him or mow the grass.

• Compensation rates for school board members. The rates have been the same for at least 10 years, but are still comparable to other area districts. The president gets $700, clerk $700 and treasurer $700. All members get $50 per meeting, $60 per day outside the district and $35 per committee meeting. All actual and necessary expenses incurred when traveling outside the district for the board are also covered.

• The next regular school board meeting will be at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 17, in the middle school media center.