The Redwood Area Board of Education hosted its Truth in Taxation meeting Nov. 27. The meeting provides an opportunity for the public to learn a little more about the school’s budget and to hear in more detail about the upcoming levy before the school board makes its final decision on that levy amount.

No one was in attendance at the Nov. 27 presentation, and at the end of the discussion led by Scott LeSage, Redwood Area School District finance director, the school board approved the payable 2018 levy at a total of $3,391.218.

That, said LeSage, reflects a 12.58 percent increase over the 2017 levy of $3,012,293. The total dollar difference is $378,925.

According to LeSage, the most significant jump was in the lease levy category. The board approved use of lease levy funds in the amount of $176,212, which will be used to cover the school board’s commitment to the new career and development center.

This is a new category of levy funding for the school district, and those dollars are set to be used to cover the $2 million the board has committed to that project over the next few years. LeSage said the property taxes collected locally make up about 16 percent of the total budget, with the majority – approximately 78 percent – coming from state sources. The rest of the revenue that comes in to the district is from federal sources – approximately 6 percent. A small amount also comes in from other local sources. 

For the district, its expenses are very heavily weighted on people, as 71 percent of its expenditures is for salaries, wages and benefits, with purchased services making up about 19 percent of expenses.

The rest of the expenditures are in supplies and materials, as well as capital and other expenditures.

The annual budget for the school district is in the $13.5 million range.

School finances are different than other forms of government that run on a calendar year, LeSage explained. While the levy approved by the school board will be collected in 2018, not all of it is spent in 2018. The school district’s new year actually begins July 1, and that is when the tax levy dollars collected locally will be used as part of the 2018-19 school year budget.

A school’s budget is made up of several different funds from the general fund, which makes up the majority of the revenue and expenditures, to those funds, such as community service and debt service.

The community service fund levies an amount to help cover the costs of community education programming, as well as early childhood and childcare programs. The levy for 2018 in community service is $116,754, which is an increase of $864 over the 2017 levy.

The debt service levy, which is established based on the school’s outstanding debt, saw a 6.55 percent increase for 2018 at $1,710,582. In dollars, the difference from the 2017 levy to that for 2018 is $105,221.

The State of Minnesota establishes the levy limits for school districts, LeSage explained, adding one of the things school boards need to be aware of is the amount of state funding that is tied to the levy approved by the board. In many cases when funds are levied there is a state equalization amount that comes to the school district. When the amount levied locally is reduced the state source share is reduced as well.

The budget itself will change throughout the year, said LeSage, as it fluctuates based on a number of factors.

In the end, the school district’s administration does its best to estimate how that budget will look and then adjusts when numbers are confirmed at different times of the year.

In other action during its meeting, the local school board:

• Recognized RVMS art teacher Kate Russell, for her role in aiding a student in distress. Russell shared with the board she was doing hall duty in the sixth grade pod one day when a student came up to her holding his neck.

Russell performed the Heimlich maneuver on the student, freed what was lodged in their throat and then took that student to the nurse to be checked.

• Approved a request from the RVHS art department to move forward with a plan to paint a mural on the curved wall in the fine arts wing by the PAC. The mural will be painted by advanced art students and will reflect the make-up of the school and the community as a whole.

Jamie Steffl, RVHS art teacher said the project fits in with the national arts academic standards, and she believes it will allow the 15 students who will work on it a chance to better identify with their school and community.

The board approved an expenditure of $800 for the project.

• Approved a request to move forward with a world language trip to Costa Rica in 2018.

• Approved a request from the RVHS student council to use its funds to make improvements in the bathroom facilities and to establish a painting project that would allow students to paint ceiling tiles in the public areas of the high school.

• Approved the employment of Pamela Hopkins as a special education paraprofessional for the middle school at a salary of $11.50 per hour and Shellie Mammen as an early childhood special education paraprofessional at a salary of $11.95 per hour.

• Approved the employment of Paul Carlson as the fifth-grade Math Masters coach at a stipend of $366.50 and Amanda Anderson as assistant softball coach at a stipend of $3,069.