Each year in early September the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) sends a report to each public school district in the State of Minnesota. In that report, the education department establishes what is known as the maximum property tax levy limit for that school district.

Barring any changes handed down from MDE, the school board’s levy for the upcoming year can’t exceed that amount. During its Sept. 23 meeting, the Redwood Area Board of Education discussed the proposed 2019 levy payable in 2020, with Tom Anderson, school finance director, presenting the information to board members.

According to Anderson, the school district can adopt the maximum levy, or it can adopt a specific dollar amount for the coming year’s levy, However, he added if a specific dollar amount is used that number can’t be exceeded when the final levy is certified later this year.

Adopting the maximum levy provides flexibility allowing the district to make changes to the numbers that were presented at the September board meeting.

The maximum levy proposal, which was approved by the board, currently includes an overall increase of 2.58 percent for 2020, or $3,659,885.29. In dollars and cents, that is an increase of $91,908.85 for 2020.

Within that proposal is a 4.28 percent increase in the general education fund from the actual 2019 levy of $1,779,853.16 to a proposed payable 2020 levy of $1,856,003.27, which represents a difference of $76,150.11. 

The proposal also includes a 7.87 percent decrease in community education funding and a 1.45 percent increase in the debt service fund.

Also within the proposal is a change in the lease levy amount for the district, and according to Anderson much of that increase is due to a proposed change in what is allowed under the lease levy. The local district is one of many in rural Minnesota that is proposing a change that would give school districts the authority to levy up to $65 per pupil for programs offered to schools by service cooperatives.

According to Rick Ellingworth, Redwood Area School District superintendent, there are 26 metro area schools that have this authority, and what other districts are asking the legislature to do is allow them to have the same option.

Ellingworth added these are funds that would be paid by the school district either way. However, as the need for more high-needs specialized programming for students increases at a dramatic rate, so do the costs for districts utilizing the service cooperatives.

Following approval of the preliminary levy, the board set the date for a public hearing allowing for input from residents. That hearing will be held Nov. 25 at 7 p.m. in the Redwood Valley schools board room.

The final certification could be adopted following that hearing. However, the board could also certify it during its December meeting, just as long as it is adopted before the end of the year.

In other action during its Sept. 23 meeting, the school board:

• Scheduled a public hearing to present the district’s Worlds Best Workforce strategic plan. That hearing will be held Nov. 25 at 6 p.m.

• Accepted the resignation of Amanda Anderson from her role as junior-varsity softball coach and Ida Gatfield from her role as Cardinal Kids Club director.

• Approved the employment of Bobby Elwell, Cameron Maurer and Eric Johnson as assistant football coaches at a stipend of $1,002 each and Kailee Heltemes as the 11-grade and prom advisor with a stipend of $806.

• Approved the employment of the Alternative Learning Program teaching staff for the first semester, including Kailee Heltemes as a Life Skills teacher for 90 hours and Ally Carlson as a counselor for 10 hours.

• Approved the employment of Wayne Junker and Clark Grannes, school board members, as extra-curricular event workers during the school year.

• Adopted a resolution directing the district to apply for a grant from the Minnesota State High School League Foundation to assist in funding of student participation in extra-curricular activities. This effort is intended to encourage increased participation in athletic, academic and arts programs.