School board eyes additional levy funding

school fundingMilaca Public Schools may be tapping into some additional levy funding thanks to legislative changes during the last regular session.

The School Board met last week to discuss the option of passing a board-approved referendum that would generate $300 per pupil in additional revenues.

Unlike most referendums, this option does not need voter approval. And unlike board-approved measures in the past, the majority of the additional funds would come in the form of state aid rather than a local contribution. About 25 percent of the per pupil levy would be paid through local property taxes, while 75 percent of it would be paid by the state.

“For that same $300 a year ago, that would have been nearly a dollar for dollar,” Superintendent Jerry Hansen said. “It allows school districts to generate that $300 per pupil and decrease the burden for local taxpayers.”

If passed, the measure would result in $516,142 in additional revenues for Milaca Public Schools.

“One, it would continue to keep our finances secure,” Hansen said. “The board also wants to use some of those funds to decrease costs to families.”

Board members have expressed the desire to lower activity fees, which have increased the past several years in response to tight budgets, and also decrease the number of items parents must purchase on the back-to-school supply lists.

A third option administration and the board are looking at for those funds is to invest in additional teachers at the elementary school to keep class sizes down.

If passed, the board-approved levy would cost local taxpayers $23 per year on a home valued at $75,000; $31 per year on a home valued at $100,000; $47 on a home valued at $150,000 and $78 on home valued at $250,000. The referendum would not impact seasonal recreation land or agricultural land.

Hanse said the board is still looking at using more of the lease levy funds it has available as well. This funding source can only be used to lease facilities used for instructional purpose. The district currently taps some of those dollars to rent the buildings that house the Rum River Education and ALC programs.

“That isn’t new,” Hansen said. “But we’re looking at the potential of using some of our lease levy money for a short-term solution while we figure out a long-term solution.”

Meanwhile, the Milaca School Board has moved its meetings from the conference room it has occupied for the past several years to the high school media center. The board room was converted into an elementary classroom at the start of this year to make room for the growing younger grades.

“Next year, we’ll see additional growth,” Hansen said. “We’ll need one to two more rooms. It’s a great problem to have.”

Hansen has explored several existing properties in Milaca that the district could potentially lease for program space.

“Each one has its advantages and disadvantages,” he said.

The board meets to discuss and potentially act upon the board-approved referendum and the lease levy option at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 16, in the high school media center.