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Nevis board proposes 13 percent levy reduction

Legislation approved this year will "greatly simplify, but not eliminate" the truth in taxation process the school districts follow on a yearly basis, Nevis superintendent Steve Rassier told board members this week.

Public hearings are no longer required, but the public may speak on the levy proposal at the regularly scheduled board meeting, to be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 21.

The district is proposing a 13 percent reduction in the levy for 2010, $812,572 in 2009 compared with $705,076 next year. The change is due in large part to "health and safety" spending this year, including the handicap accessible ramp and other projects. Similar upgrades are not on the docket next year.

In other action, the board:

- Received an update on teacher negotiations.

Unrequested leaves of absence and the establishment of a seniority list appear to be points of contention, Rassier said.

"The review of this is very important as we do expect layoffs this spring due to financial issues," he said, ostensibly referring to the shift in state funding and the decline in student enrollment.

An updated enrollment report shows 517 enrolled in K-12 compared with 546 at this point last year. Open enrolled students number 250, compared with 267 last year. Resident students total 267, compared with 279 last year.

The decline "has a huge impact on the district," Rassier told the board. "Last year's numbers were higher than expected. This year's are lower. Funding is so impacted by numbers."

A board proposal that would require teachers who become eligible for benefits through the federal Medicare program to be excluded from the district's group health insurance program has been submitted, but not yet agreed upon, he reported. "While not an issue for this district (yet), our insurance pool highly recommends this language," Rassier said.

"Insurance has been a major topic with discussion held on different options," he reported. One of the options is elimination of health insurance as a benefit and instead giving all teachers an equal amount to be placed in a health savings account. "It's radical," Rassier said, "but it would provide equality."

"Major issues" yet to be resolved: basic salary schedule, severance pay, length of workday, teacher prep and a 30-minute lunch period.

Presently, the board proposal is for a hard freeze for both years of the contract, Rassier said.

Another negotiation session will be Dec. 2, with mediation set for Dec. 9, if necessary.

- Reviewed the Minnesota statute that allows a district to rent their school bus.

Several caveats may preclude renting the bus for Taste of Dorset and other uses, Rassier said.

- Learned the school's history site, which is a work in progress, is now on the Web site, the link located on the right side of the page.

- Accepted Itasca-Mantrap grants, totaling $4,500. including $500 for fast break basketball, $500 for Community Education scholarships, $1,500 for the Pam Lindow Scholarship Foundation, $500 for the Nevis Football Booster Club, $500 for the high school Spanish Club and Art Club, $500 for high school track and $500 for the musical theater