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Nevis may see moderate tax increase

By Jean Ruzicka

Nevis School District property owners could see a moderate increase in taxes next year, the school board determined this week.

The decision is based on legislative approval of Local Optional Revenue in this year’s tax bill, signed by the governor in April.

All districts now qualify for $424 per pupil unit of LOR, reducing the operating referendum revenue, Jodie Zesbaugh of Ehlers explained.

Implications of the law vary by district, Zesbaugh explained. Nevis will see no change in 2014-15 and would see no additional revenue next year, without action.

Under the new legislation, the district qualifies for $424 of LOR in 2015-16, which is not subject to voter approval. The voter-approved allowance of $252 per pupil will be converted to the estimated $424.

The board considered four options, one of which would have provided the same amount of revenue with an increase in taxes.

Members approved “option four,” accepting $424 of LOR, a total referendum authority of $300, with the district receiving 20 percent state aid.

The revenue increase would be seen in 2014-15 with taxpayers seeing a tax increase in 2015, approximately $84 annually on a property with an estimated market value of $100,000.

This does not affect seasonal recreational property owners. Homeowners and commercial properties would be taxed at the same rate.

Options two and three, with the district receiving $121 and $200 in LOR, respectively, would decrease taxes by $1 (option two) and increase taxes by $21 (three).

The final decision on amounts will be made by the board in December when the final levy is approved.

“Hopefully we won’t be real greedy when the time comes,” Andy Lindow said.

“The legislature is giving authority back to the boards,” chair Ed Becker noted.

The board agreed to discuss amounts after reviewing the audit.

In other action, the board:

n Learned an enrollment of 590 students is expected when bells ring Tuesday.

n Reported changes in staff, including Bill Dent, fourth grade; Lori FitzGerald, third grade; Kay Netteberg, second grade/early childhood special education and Paul Schroeder, Title I.

Jackie Brakke will serve as Community Education assistant; Stacy Feder, educational assistant; Randy Jansen, facilities manager; Shelly Mahowald, second grade/physical education, and Lisa Newhouse, middle level special education.

n Discussed student use of cell phones and electronic devices, board member Justin Isaacson referring to the student handbook with language prohibiting use of them in classrooms and other areas without approval by the principal.

Superintendent Gregg Parks pointed out that students with smartphones may be able to access information more quickly than using other sources.

“We should be flexible,” he cautioned.

“Some teachers ask for phones to be put in a box, others encourage their use,” Principal John Strom said. “Smartphones are part of the culture.” He speculates “their uses will expand faster than we can imagine.”

As for a uniform policy, “getting 43 teachers in line will be like herding cats,” he joked. “They are independent thinkers.” Students can use their own devices but must use school apps, he explained. “I’ve stopped trying to see what’s coming down the pike,” he said of technology innovations.

Lindow questioned if the wording prohibiting them should be included in the policy.

“It’s up to teacher discretion,” Strom said. “Many phones cross my desk during the day,” he said of devices being confiscated.

Jeannette Dudley suggested the board revisit the issue once school has been in session for a few months.

n And students won’t be the only ones using electronic devices this year.

Becker asked Parks to move forward on the purchase of Surface units or iPads for school board members.