The Delano School Board faced a complicated situation Monday, Sept. 24, when it set its preliminary 2013 property tax levy at $4,029,598.14.
First of all, the School District’s budget year begins each July 1. This means that Delano Schools has a pretty good handle on general fund expenses for the last part of the current school year that runs from Jan. 1 through June 30, 2013. However, the district’s 10-year operating levy of $426.86 per pupil will expire on June 30. This injects uncertainty into the Delano Schools budget planning process — mostly for the remainder of 2013.
The uncertainty revolves around how district residents will vote on two operating levy referendum questions that will be on the ballot in the Nov. 6 General Election. The first ballot question simply asks voters to renew the $426.86 per pupil operating levy for the next 10 years. Voter approval of this question would not result in a property tax increase. The second question asks voters to approve an additional $325 per student in operating levy money. Approval of this question would add $144 to the property tax bill for a $200,000 home in 2013. In order for question two to pass, voters first must approve question one.
So Delano Public Schools has to plan its general fund budget and property tax levy for three different scenarios. The worst case would be voters failing to approve both levy referendum questions, the second worst case is approval of question one, but not question two. And the best case is approval of both questions.
How does a School District plan for budget scenarios involving revenue pictures that are a couple of million dollars apart?
Fortunately, the calendar is helping budget planning for Delano Schools. The school district needed to certify its preliminary 2013 property tax levy by the end of September, but the end of December is the deadline for certifying the final 2013 property tax levy. The final levy can be equal to or lower than the preliminary levy — but not higher. Meanwhile, the operating levy referendum is on Nov. 6. School District officials can use the results to determine the final 2013 levy.
District Business Manager Mary Reeder used a Hail Mary strategy to calculate the 2013 preliminary property tax levy, because the final levy cannot be higher than the preliminary one. She said the School Board has the option of enacting a $311 per student operating levy that district voters approved a number of years ago. The School District has intended to use this money to operate a new school that never was built. So Delano Schools has not enacted the $311 levy.
Reeder said that Delano Schools has been losing $25,000 to $30,000 a year because the district has not taken advantage of the $311 levy that voters approved for operating a new school.
Her strategy for calculating the preliminary 2013 property tax levy includes enactment of the unused $311 levy in the event that voters fail to approve both operating levy referendum questions.
The School Board, on Sept. 24, approved a $4,029,598.14 preliminary property tax levy for 2013, an amount that is $593,666.82 (12.84 percent) lower than the actual 2012 property tax levy of $4,623,264.96. These figures include levies for the general fund, community service and debt service. The board also set the date and time of the public budget meeting for 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 17, in the Delano High School media center.
Turning to other business, the School Board revised the district’s transportation policy for safety reasons.
Superintendent of Schools Matt Schoen noted that a recent policy change has resulted in an increased walking distance to Delano Elementary School (DES) for students. The walking path for some of these students is not as safe as the School District would like. So the district has been negotiating with Stahlke Bus Service to pick up students walking in unsafe areas after dropping off students at Delano Middle School and Delano High School. This service will not result in any changes in regular bus stops.
Schoen said this change made it necessary for the School Board to amend the district’s transportation policy. The $18,000 cost will be paid for with unused funds that the School District had earmarked for other purposes. Stahlke Bus Service already has begun this pickup service for walking students.
Delano teacher Lanette Faul, who coordinates the Chinese Exchange Program, introduced four adult visitors from Purple Cloud High School, Delano’s sister school in China. Fourteen students and four teachers and administrators from Purple Cloud arrived in Delano, Sunday, Sept. 23 and stayed in host homes. Over spring break, Delano High School will send three or four teachers and administrators and 14 students to Purple Cloud.
Since 2005, Delano Schools has sent 71 students and 29 teachers and administrators to Purple Cloud, while Purple Cloud has sent 71 students and 33 teachers and administrators to Delano, Faul said. She called the exchange program “an absolutely wonderful experience for everyone.”
DHS SHARP EFFORTS
Youth Enrichment Coordinator Carley Boll introduced DHS students Anna Elsen, Katie Emmer and Rachel Stoll, who are members of the school’s SHARP team. SHARP stands for Students Helping Adolescents Resist Pressures.
Elsen described SHARP’s efforts during Homecoming Week to remind students to drive sober, buckle up and be free of distractions while driving. She said this Teen Driver Safety Week actually lasts all year.
“Whenever you get into a car, you have control over all the lives around you,” Elsen cautioned.
Emmer talked about how SHARP is educating DES students about what to say when someone offers them drugs.
Stoll explained the DHS Positively Drug Free effort. DHS students during lunch hour will sign pledges to be drug free. Names of pledge signers will be entered into drawings for prizes.