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Brainerd School Board: District 181 approves 3 percent levy increase

The Brainerd School District provided this illustration on how the district compares to other school districts in the state on what the districts receive in per pupil unit dollars.

Taxpayers in the Brainerd School District won't see much change in their school district taxes for next year.

The Brainerd School Board Monday approved its final certified tax levy for taxes payable in 2018. The board approved the final tax levy at $19,537,144.25, a 3 percent increase over the 2017 tax levy—the same amount as the preliminary levy set in September.

Board members can decrease the preliminary levy they set, but they cannot increase it when they vote on the final levy in December. The school tax levy is based on calculations completed by the Minnesota Department of Education, which administers the funding formulas governed by state statutes. The state formula for revenue is based on pupil units, a weighted enrollment measure.

Steve Lund, director of business services for the school district, said the district's property tax levy for 2018 is determined by an increase in the school enrollment for 2018-19, projected at 6,608 average daily membership and resident pupil unit count, compared to 6,571 in 2017-18. Districts can levy up to $724 per pupil unit, $300 from a board referendum and $424 in local optional revenue.

A school district levy is different than a city or county levy. A city or county sets a budget and then determines a levy; the school district operates just the opposite. The school district sets a levy, then builds a budget. The district operates a combined fund budget of $96 million and generates about $19.6 million in proposed local property tax levy. The tax levy accounts for about 20 percent of the district's combined fund annual budget, Lund stated in his tax levy presentation.

The estimated $19 million final levy is broken up into $10,164,242 in the general fund; $570,150 in the community services fund; and $8,802,752 in total debt service.

No one spoke at the truth and taxation hearing.

In other school business:

Approved the final audit for the 2016-17 school year. The report shows on June 30, the district had $79,425,864 in revenue and spent $78,126,379. The fund balance started the fiscal year at $10,544,933 and ended with $11,820,116.

Lund said even though the audit shows the district overall spent less money, the district actually overspent in its salary expenses.

"We need to be careful on that," Lund said.

Agreed to hire a behavior management specialist at Nisswa Elementary School to assist with high-needs students requiring physical holds. There have been 17 physical holds in Nisswa this year so far, compared to five total in the 2016-17 school years.

Agreed to hire an emotional behavior disorder teacher at Forestview Middle School in Baxter to support the high number of students with emotional/behavioral disorders. One of the teachers is case managing 29 students, which is the highest caseload in the district and unmanageable, district officials stated. Another teacher is case managing 17 students with 1 student in evaluation status.

Agreed to hire a behavior management specialist at Riverside Elementary School to support students who are struggling to remain in the classroom and assisting with physical holds. The school has five self-contained classrooms to support students with significant emotional and behavioral disorders, cognitive disorders and autism spectrum disorder.

Agreed to hire a new adult basic education teacher for two to five hours per week to run a class in the Pine River-Backus area.

Voted 5-1, with board member Sue Kern voting against, on the following: Eliminating the full-time equivalent transportation director and adding a full-time transportation manager and a half-time transportation assistant; and eliminating two full-time equivalent education assistants at Nisswa. The board also added the above positions.

Kern said the reason why she voted against the positions was the audit stated the district was overspending in its salary and benefits, so the board has to make decisions to stay within budget.

Accepted family medical leave act leaves for Kelly Erickson, Lori Hodge, Deanna Imgrund, Carlie Jelacie, Marci Lord and Karla Skwira.

Approved a field trip for fourth-graders at Garfield Elementary School to attend Deep Portage Environmental Learning Center.

Approved a field trip to Costa Rica, an educational trip for students in Spanish III, IV and advanced placement Spanish students. The trip is in March of 2019.

Approved changes to the Brainerd High School course offerings for next fall in Spanish, American Sign Language and world language.

Approved the addition of an entrepreneurship course for next fall. The course will take students through the process of owning their own business and include how they can turn their ideas into goods and services and how to build a rewarding career for themselves.

Passed a resolution to complete the purchase agreement to purchase land on 110 NW Third St., next to Riverside Elementary School.