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Alexandria School Board approves levy hike of 5.9 percent

The Alexandria School Board approved an increase of its overall tax levy by 5.93 percent at its December meeting Monday night. The increase was larger than the 0.77 percent hike that was approved in September when the preliminary levy was set.

The preliminary levy was for the maximum allowable amount allowed by the state. One reason for that was the final levy can remain the same or be less than that preliminary number, but it usually cannot increase.

The exception is when changes are authorized by the Minnesota Department of Education, which is what happened this year.

The preliminary levy was based on financial figures from the state that were later found to be in error, which the district was notified of three days later in a letter from the MDE.

"To have that large of a change from the preliminary levy to the final levy is very rare," said Trevor Peterson, director of business services for the school district. "Usually it changes a little due to updated enrollment figures being reported to the state, but for the most part, it stays very close to the preliminary levy."

The two main factors that went into the change were:

• Due to an MDE formula error, the amount for long-term facilities maintenance increased by $354,276.

• Due to a error in the Payable 2015 Other Post-Employment Benefits debt service levy, the correction amounted to an increase of $372,110.

"After the error was discovered, they made a mandated, one-time adjustment to our old payable 2015 levy into this year," Peterson said.

He said that the district's portion of property taxes on a $217,000 home would amount to $791. In a comparison with 13 other comparable districts, Peterson said only two others, Bemidji and

Detroit Lakes, had a lower tax share. The average district property tax for those comparable districts was $1,025.

When compared to surrounding school districts, Minnewaska ($758) and Parkers Prairie ($741) had slightly lower taxes and Brandon-Evansville substantially lower ($554), while district taxes in Osakis, Sauk Centre and West Central Area were all over $1,000. The average of those seven schools, including Alexandria, was $882.

School taxes are just one component of a property tax bill, which also includes taxes collected by the city and county.

Resolved deals

Scott Heckert, the district's human resource director, said that the school district agreed to tentative deals with the following employee groups: paraprofessionals and transportation; director of technology; director of food services; assistant director of special education; building/grounds; communications and marketing, and transportation supervisors. Each of the following agreements will take effect for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years.

Restructured classes

The board approved restructuring seven classes for the 2019-20 school year.

Rick Sansted, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, explained to the board that restructuring courses will provide more flexibility and options for student. These changes were made after consulting with staff and others.

The seven restructured classes, which includes two from business and two from social studies, are: AP Human Geography; Civic Service and Engagement; Microsoft/Google Applications; and M1 -Advertising & Sales, Emergency Medical Responder, Horticulture, and Advertising & Sales.

In other matters

The school board also:

• Approved the fifth grade students of Carlos permission request to travel to Deep Portage Learning Center in Hackensack. The trip is scheduled for Feb. 27 to March 1, 2019. The students will learn geocaching, rock climbing, snowshoeing and study animals.

Abel Mehari

Abel Mehari is a news reporter for the Echo Press. A graduate from the University of Minnesota, he represented the Special Olympics United States basketball team for the 2015 World Games. In 2017 he earned an ESPY award for his contributions to Special Olympics MN and for expressing his life story through basketball.

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