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Nevis School ups levy, sets meetings to discuss referendum

The Nevis School Board approved a preliminary levy of $811,474 payable in 2013, a 12 percent increase from this year's amount.

Superintendent Steve Rassier attributed the $86,772 increase to construction of handicapped accessible bathrooms and the concession stand at the athletic complex.

"Typically," he reminded board members, "we adopt a proposed levy at maximum, leaving flexibility to set the final levy in December."

Rassier presented a historical perspective, noting the local property tax peaked in payable 2001 when the levy was nearly $1.4 million.

"The levy reached the million dollar mark in 1994 with steady increases until 2002," he said. "In 2002, under the school funding reform of Gov. Jesse Ventura, local taxes were reduced to $167,252. Since then we have seen a relative steady increase with a recent peak in 2007.

"The levy fluctuates yearly based on district needs, legislative changes, health and safety projects, handicapped access levies" and more, he reminded the board.

Recent levies are:

2013 - $811,474

2012 - $724,702

2011 - $599,001

2010 - $705,076

2009 - $812,572

2008 - $685,760

2007 - $818,365

The district will hold a Truth in Taxation meeting at 7:05 p.m. Monday, Dec. 17. The final levy will be determined subsequent to the meeting.

In other action, the board:

n Approved refunding and issuing $995,000 of existing general obligation bonds at a net savings of $54,785 over a four-year period. The savings will be passed on to taxpayers.

Four bids were received, United Bankers' Bank the lowest at .701 percent.

Rates are at an all time low, the board learned. Financial consultants had earlier projected savings of $42,000.

n Set public meetings to discuss the proposed building referendum, 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9 and 6 p.m. Oct. 22, both in the school's media center

Voters will be asked two questions Nov. 6:

The first will ask for funding for three proposals. These include an Early Childhood Family Education addition on the east end of the elementary building. Cost is $1 million, offset by a $500,000 grant for the project.

The second of the three proposals is replacing the portables on the west side of the high school with three permanent classrooms and men's and women's restrooms. Cost is $850,000.

The third is building a boys' locker room on the northwest side of the school - the former band room - and a new band room where the existing choir room is located. Cost is an estimated $1 million.

Total cost of option one is $2.85 million, $2.35 million with the grant factored in.

The second question will ask for approval to enlarge the wood shop and add a hallway between the existing art room and wood shop toward the Tiger Arena lobby. Cost is $550,000.

Approval of the second question is contingent on passage of the first.

Total cost of both options, with the grant, is an estimated $2.9 million.

The school has indicated they will proceed with the ECFE building even if the proposal fails to meet voter approval due to the significant amount of the grant.

n Learned the iPads given to this year's sixth graders are a "hit with the kids."

Rassier said he's heard of "no issues" regarding their use.

The technologically astute and receptive students "are doing more math drills in a day than they used to do in a month."

"The ideal" will be to download textbooks at a savings to the district, he reiterated of plans for the future.

n Learned from principal John Strom mental health and family planning are curriculum topics.

Mental health, including resources available to students in need of help, will be introduced in eighth grade, addressed "in depth" in tenth grade.

"The simple statement regarding suicides and school shootings: take it as truth," he said of students suggesting such acts.

As for family planning, Strom said, "Research is clear; the most effective education is a combination of abstinence and birth control education."

Letters on the curriculum, which students have read, will be sent home.

Parents may view the material and have the right to withdraw a student from the class.

Abstinence info advises students to set limits, draw a line, how to get out of situations, say "no" and have a mutually monogamous partner.

The birth control "side" will show kids safe and effective methods. Kids will actually see birth control products and "and pass them up and down the rows."

An awareness program will be introduced in elementary health education classes, addressing "what is okay and what isn't okay, what does an appropriate relationship look like and what doesn't an appropriate relationship look like."

"This is a great idea," board member Jeannette Dudley commented.

n Rescinded financial honorariums to Jodi Sandmeyer and Lynne Gustafson for their work on the school's 100th anniversary celebration, as were approved in August.

Rassier said he learned after the fact that schools may not pay retroactive bonuses to employees as these are considered gifts, which cannot be made by governmental agencies.

n Approved the base pay of substitute bus drivers to equal that of regular bus drivers, $16.32 per hour.

Transportation supervisor Dan Stacey requested the change, "the main argument being that equal work should be at equal pay."

Longtime driver Craig Stanwick told board members the position requires the same time and training and the sub must learn all the routes.

n Learned the school will need to update school bus radio equipment, Rassier recommending digital units to be in compliance with Federal Communications Commission regulations.

Current radios are outdated, Rassier said. The purchase of digital radios "will assure they meet code five years from now."

n Reviewed the annual Curriculum, Instruction and Student Achievement report, including the school's Multi Measurement Rating.

The state Department of Education proposed the MMR as a part of Minnesota's request for a waiver from compliance with No Child Left Behind.

The MMR moves away from the previous measurement that was based solely on proficiency. The new MMR looks at proficiency, student growth, achievement gap reduction and graduation rates. Schools earn points in each category, resulting in the final MMR.

Nevis was one of 128 schools to be named a Reward School, the highest-performing 15 percent of Title I schools in the state.

Nevis was ranked 83rd in the state. "We scored better than last year, but there are 83 schools ahead of us," Strom said, while acknowledging "700 are behind us.

"This," he said, "is to the credit of our teachers."

n Approved the second reading of the board policy on open and closed meeting policy.