The Nashwauk-Keewatin School Board approved moving forward with a board authorized levy and called an election for a capital improvement levy at its meeting last week.
In 2013, state lawmakers passed legislation that allowed school districts to enact local levies without voter approval. That authority was extended during the 2014 legislative session.
For about one month, NK board members have been contemplating moving forward with a board-authorized levy in the amount of $300/per pupil unit for a five year period. That levy, combined with a $424 per pupil unit levy that kicks in for all districts in the state that don’t specifically opt out will help replace a $700-plus per pupil levy - approved by voters in 2009 - that’s set to expire in 2016.
While the board authorized levy was approved, some expressed reservation and one director, Jeff Sundquist, voted against the measure.
“This is for the kids and for the school. I’m not a fan of passing things without voter approval. But I didn’t make the system, the state did,” said Director Ron Smith, who voted in favor of the measure.
The two levies totaling $724 per pupil unit, which will be collected beginning in 2016 aren’t expected to have much impact on property owners when compared to current tax rates. Estimates compiled by the district suggest a homeowner with a $75,000 property would see a 5 to 7 percent decline in the levy.
At last week’s meeting, the board also approved moving forward with a special election when voters will approve or decline a $380 per pupil capital improvement levy. A capital projects levy – which would be used for buildings and grounds, technology and equipment needs – has an advantage over the traditional operating levy because seasonal properties are not exempt.
The levy referendum question will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Several personnel items also were addressed at last week’s meeting.
The board granted a six-week medical leave of absence to Superintendent Mark Adams. The matter received no discussion at the school board meeting, but rather was passed as a routine item of business on the board’s consent agenda.
The medical leave extends from Aug. 4 to Sept. 12, 2014. Adams letter was not included in the school board information materials and the reason for the leave was not disclosed.
The board also approved a modification to Adams’ contract, which allows him to receive monetary payment for up to 50 percent of unused vacation days. Under the terms of the contract before modification, up to 50 percent of unused vacation time was available for buy-back to contribute into a district-sponsored HRA (Health Reimbursement Account).
In another senior personnel development, the NK Board accepted the resignation of Business Manager Mark Case, effective as early as Oct. 31 and no later than Dec. 31, 2014, pending a signed one-year leave of absence document.
In other business, the board:
• Approved the minutes of the July 15 regular meeting, July 28 and July 29 special meetings and the Aug. 13 board workshop.
• Approved the 2014-15 high school handbook. Changes include: academic integrity additions; additional changes in bullying language; a requirement removing hats while in the building and prohibition of e-cigarettes.
• Approved a revised policy on bullying prohibition.
• Discussed collaborating with the city of Nashwauk to revitalize local ball fields.