This team of kids from the Spring Grove gifted and talented program won a first place trophy in state competitions for their skit “Not so Haunted House.” Last week the group performed their production for school board members. From left are Tatiana Deters (coach), Sam Folstad, Alex Ellingson, Alex Deters, Katie Lamm and Chandler Bergrud.  Team member Jacine Johanningmeier was absent.<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->PHOTO: CRAIG MOORHEAD/SPRING GROVE HERALD
This team of kids from the Spring Grove gifted and talented program won a first place trophy in state competitions for their skit “Not so Haunted House.” Last week the group performed their production for school board members. From left are Tatiana Deters (coach), Sam Folstad, Alex Ellingson, Alex Deters, Katie Lamm and Chandler Bergrud.  Team member Jacine Johanningmeier was absent.

PHOTO: CRAIG MOORHEAD/SPRING GROVE HERALD
Spring Grove Public Schools may have an unusual request for voters next fall - asking them to approve a lower operating referendum.

On April 21, Superintendent Rachel Udstuen told ISD #297 directors that a bill signed into law recently by Gov. Mark Dayton will allow the district to trim the impact of the referendum by $424 per pupil. The State of Minnesota would make up the difference under a program called "location equity revenue," which has now been expanded to include school districts of all sizes.

Under LER, the district would be allowed to levy operating dollars on the referendum market value (RMV) tax base (up to $424 per pupil). If the district's RMV is less than $510,000 per pupil, the state will pay part of the levy. The lower a district's RMV per pupil, the more state equalization aid will be generated. The result is that districts that are not seeking additional tax revenue can use the program to extend tax relief to residents.

Udstuen said that the district may want to place a referendum renewal on the ballot next fall (a year early), just in case it does not pass. The existing 10-year referendum was approved in 2005, and went into effect on taxes payable in 2006. ISD #297 currently collects $1,388 per pupil from the operating referendum. If the reduced referendum passes in the fall of 2014, those rates would take effect in 2015, effectively tossing out the 10th year of the current referendum.

"In our case the message is going to be a great one to get out," Udstuen said. "We're going to have tax relief.

District accountant Tanya Elton said that taxpayers would save approximately $60,000 per year under the change.

Directors also reviewed and approved the 2013-14 revised budget, which Elton said indicates an increase in unreserved fund balance for the start of the '14-'15 school year. "It looks like, if everything shakes down in the budget, that it could be (an increase of) $25,000 to $35,000," she stated.

Personnel

The board voted to table a contract offer for Elton for later discussion, but did address three other employee recommendations for the upcoming school year.

Due to an uncertain need for additional help in special education, Karen Stenhoff's part-time (.66 full time equivalent) contract was not renewed. Udstuen said that if the numbers change, a new hiring process would be required to bring Stenhoff back.

Elementary teacher Betty Johnson's full-time contract was not renewed either. Udstuen said that the reason for the reduction is that the '14-'15 incoming kindergarten class will be only one section, and upper elementary numbers are "lower than they were at the beginning of this school year."

Johnson's "non-renewal" brought questions from five residents, who opposed the action. Several stated that she has been with the district in various jobs for 20 to 30 years, and is an extremely dedicated employee.

Udstuen replied that the third grade will drop from two to one section next year, if current estimates hold true. In addition, if this year's fifth grade class loses any students, it could also go from two to one section.

Finally, the board voted to place science teacher Nolie Kapplinger on unrequested leave of absence for a portion of her hours. Kapplinger's teaching contract will be reduced from 1.0 FTE to .833.

School calendar

Directors approved a calendar for '14-'15 as well. The first day of school will be Sept. 2. The "winter break" will be from Dec. 20 to Jan. 4. Spring break will be April 2 to 6. The last day of classes is June 5, with graduation on June 7.

The next regular meeting of the school board will be May 19 at 7 p.m. Prior to that date, however, three committee meetings will be held, all on May 5. Beginning at 7:30 pm, the finance, building and grounds, and transportation committees will all hold sessions.