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School board hears truth in taxation and world best workforce reports

Sean Ellertson
St. James Plaindealer

At the regular St. James School Board meeting on Monday, the board heard reports from Courtney Brey and Superintendent Dr. Steven Heil, as well as set a meeting for a special session as the district aims to go back to in-person learning.

The main item of business at the St. James School Board meeting was the truth in taxation presentation by Courtney Brey.

The general education formula allowance for the fiscal year 2021 is $6,567 per pupil. Formulas determine revenue, and most revenue is based on specified amounts per pupil. Districts can levy less but not more than the amount authorized by the state unless approved by voters.

The state can authorize the school board to levy up to $724 per pupil unit in local optional revenue. Tax levies are based on many state-determined formulas and approved referendums, and changes in tax levies don't determine the change in the budget.

The budget revenue for 2020-2021 is $17,351,004. The budget has six funds: the general fund, debt service, community service, food service, capital/construction projects, and fiduciary.

The general fund totals $13,519,350 (78%) of the budget, debt service is $1,762.182 (10%), commmunity service totals $1,088,856 (6.3%), and the food service fund is $980,616 (5.7%).

Of the general fund $11,61,403 (86%) comes from state aid and $1,531,143 (11%) from local sources. Federal aid makes up $342,054 (3%) of the fund. 

Expenditures within the general fund total $13,410,531.

Regular instruction makes up for 45% of the expenditures, special education is 15%, sites and buildings are 12%, pupil support services is 10%, the administration is 6%, district support services is 5%, instruction support services are 4%, and vocational instruction is 2%. 

Over half the expenditures are for salaries and wages, while purchased services and employee benefits each account for 1/5 of the expenditures.

The district received  $546,328.68 in CARES funds, some of which is available until 2022. The district received $43,494.12 from GEERS (Governor's Emergency Educational Relief) Funds—used mainly for technology—$173,852.14 from ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) Funds—used for general relief including supplies, PPE, technology, and mental health needs— and $317,482.42 from CRF (Coronavirus Relief Fund) funds.

Community Education received $29,661 from local city and county CARES funds.

The 2021 proposed property tax levy will increase from 2020 by $128,505.67, or 4.52%.

Superintendent Heil also addressed the potential return to in-person learning after the new year.

"Right now, all of our employees are healthy, we don't have anybody in quarantine," said Heil. "If we had to come back tomorow we could because we have the employees. We still do have some kids still in quarantine due to contact outside of school, so that's still concering to us."

Heil said that the district didn't have the data available to see if students could return to school on January 4th. Heil proposed holding a special session on January 4th to get a gauge on how the coronavirus case numbers look through the holiday season.  

The board passed a motion to meet on January 4th.

Heil then presented the board with the world's best workforce report. The district set goals for making sure all students are ready for school. Part of that goal was having 90% of 4-year olds attending a four-star preschool, which was met. The district also had goals for a 90% graduation rate, which was also met.

Goals for increasing reading levels among third graders, career and college readiness, and decreasing the acheviement gap between student groups by 5% could not be finished due to the lack of MCA testing last spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

17:00 of recording-24:00 for Truth in Taxation hearing

Following reports from principals Liam Dawson and Karla Beck, Superintendent Dr. Steve Heil thanked Luisa Trapero for her work on the school board

Other items:

- Acceptance of gifts

- Resolution designation annual polling place- St. James National Guard Armory

- Approve the 2020-2021 seniority lists

- Approve St. James comunity childcare and saved by the bell hourly wage schedule for 2020-2021 & 2021-2022

- Approve salary schedule for community education teacher or professional staff 2020-21

- Approve community education summer recreation swimming salary schedule 

- Approve calendar update- homework days twice a month, teachers will use the day as a prep day

- Approve school district quarantine guidelines

- Approve school district quarantine guidelines- 14 days for students and 10 days for staff as long as they follow all distancing and masking requirements

- Approve school board organizational meeting to be held on Jan. 4th