The Park Rapids School Board had a Truth in Taxation hearing on Monday. Afterward, the board approved the school district’s revised general fund budget for fiscal year 2019-20 and certified its 2019, payable 2020, property tax levy.

Tax levy

Business Manager Kent Fritze explained that the state Legislature sets formulas to determine statutory levy limits, which the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) uses to calculate levy limits for each school district. The school board adopted the proposed levy in September, and the final levy ordinarily cannot exceed that.

The tax levy for next year totals $5,388,125. Of this total, $2,687,467 (49.9 percent) is for debt service, down $360 from last year; $196,860 is for community service, up $12,840; and $2,503,798 is for the general fund, up $151,271.

Fritze compared the overall 3.13 percent increase in the district levy to neighboring districts, noting that levies decreased in Nevis (4.32 percent), Menahga (5.17 percent) and Detroit Lakes (2.23 percent), but increased 3.37 percent for Wadena-Deer Creek and 5.89 percent for Sebeka.

Among the biggest changes in next year’s levy, he said, is an $89,000 increase toward general operating expenses due to a 32-student increase in enrollment this school year, and a $36,000 increase in long-term facilities maintenance funding based on a combination of enrollment and the district’s 10-year facility plan.

The MDE increased the district’s basic general education formula 2 percent for the fifth year in a row, raising the allowance to $6,438 per student. Meanwhile, the district’s average daily attendance as of June 30 increased during each of the last six years and, at 1,670 in 2019, has gone up 14 percent since in 2014.

Budget

In an overview of the school district’s funds, Fritze explained that the general fund accounts for most daily operations – instruction, supplies, utilities, insurance, extracurricular expenses, salaries and benefits, administration, custodial services, student transportation, equipment purchases and facility improvements.

Community service programs include early childhood family education (ECFE), school readiness, adult continuing education and recreation programs. Other major fund categories include food service, debt service and the building fund.

The preliminary budget for fiscal year 2019-20 projects revenues totaling $20,894,833 in the general fund, $958,974 for food service, $871,792 for community service, $2,763,041 for debt service and $14,486 for the building fund. All in, that’s a projected revenue of $25,503,126.

Regarding the sources of general fund revenues, Fritze noted that about $3 million (14.7 percent) will come from local sources including the tax levy; $16.2 million (77.5 percent) from the state; $1.6 million (7.7 percent) from the federal government and $12,000 (0.1 percent) from resale, for example, of surplus equipment.

Budgeted expenses include $20,960,998 from the general fund, $1,150,833 for food service, $901,165 for community service, $2,714,542 for debt service and $7,000 for the building fund. For all funds together, the expenditure budget totals $25,503,126. Compared to expected revenues, this predicts a net loss of $231,412, leaving a total fund balance of $11,155,609 as of June 30, 2020.

Fritze noted that the Park Rapids School District ranks 208th among the 300 Minnesota districts in total revenue per student. Compared to the statewide average of $11,406 per student, the district expects to receive $10,685 per student, with the biggest difference coming from local tax levies – $724 per student in Park Rapids, compared to a statewide average of $1,248.

Comparing the expenses budgeted for different programs, elementary and secondary instruction tops the list at 47.6 percent, followed by special education instruction at 20 percent, facilities at 10.5 percent, student support services at 7.9 percent, administration at 5.3 percent, instructional support services at 4.4 percent, district support services at 2.7 percent, vocational instruction at 1.2 percent and fiscal and other fixed costs at 0.4 percent.

Sliced another way, general fund expenses break down to 78 percent for salaries and benefits, 10.3 percent for purchased services (such as outside interventionists, mental health services, attorneys, etc.), 6.9 percent for supplies and materials, 4.3 percent for capital expenditures (such as vehicle purchases and facility improvements) and 0.6 percent for other costs.

Board member Gary Gauldin made the motion to certify the tax levy. Board member Stephanie Carlson moved to approve the budget. Both motions passed without dissent.

In consent items and general business, the school board:

  • Recognized state swimming participants Ellie Ulvin and Emma Vrieze.

  • Hired Shaun Johnson as a 0.7-time social emotional learning behavioral coordinator effective Dec. 9, Brent Vandal as head girls golf coach, Joshua Yliniemi as seventh-grade boys basketball coach, Kevin Cederstrom as assistant softball coach, Lindsay Iverson as eighth grade softball coach and Ashley Hensel as seventh-grade softball coach.

  • Approved volunteers Sandra Aldrich, Robert Henderson and Victoria Harju as speech coaches and Shannon Dykhoff as wrestling coach.

  • Accepted the resignations of Brent Vandal as middle school girls golf coach and Linette Cadwell as cook’s helper effective Dec. 11.

  • Announced the results of its self-evaluation and its performance review of Superintendent Lance Bagstad. Board chair Sherry Safratowich said the board was satisfied with their progress and performance.

  • Approved payments presented for December, totaling $781,169.

  • Accepted a donation of an Armstrong flute from Norman Denstedt to the band department.

The school board’s next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 6 at the Frank White Education Center.