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Business as usual and goodbyes: District talks levy, goals at Buboltz, Lyngaas and Seaworth’s final board meeting

It was the final school board meeting for Jackie Buboltz, Ladd Lyngaas, and Dr. Tom Seaworth, full of warm goodbyes and business as usual, beginning with the 2016 property tax levy certification.

After the Sept. 28 meeting, which capped the levy hike at 7.92 percent, the board agreed Monday (Dec. 12) on a levy increase of 7.88 percent, an increase of $330,470 from the current levy.

The levy increase is due to a number of factors including an increased number of students.

"Our levy is majorly dependent upon student counts. As your student counts grow, so do your expenditures that go with those students and therefore so does the revenue for those students so that you can take care of them," said Business Manager Ryan Tangen.

Other factors affecting the levy are the long-term facility maintenance revenue phase-in, which is meant to replace the health and safety and deferred maintenance revenue, the implementation of Q-Com, an alternative compensation for instructors, and long-term debt, which is still at zero for this tax period.

Recent data shows that a home in Detroit Lakes with an estimated market value of $150,000 will pay an average of $327 in property taxes for schools, $488 in property taxes for the county, $532 in the city portion for property taxes.

Compared with other districts, these property taxes are quite low across the board.

"There's a lot of misunderstanding, but basically, it isn't just the school district taxes that are at at a lower level than most of the surrounding area, but so do the city and the county," said Seaworth. "It's been a credit to our administration over the years to do more with less...this district has been very, very fiscally sound."

After discussing the funds, the board moved on to discussing the academics within the schools with a presentation from Director of Curriculum Renee Kerzman.

Working on the World's Best Workforce Plan, the district's goals are to have all children ready for kindergarten, to increase literacy rates and to close the achievement gap between children receiving free-and-reduced lunch and children not receiving free-and-reduced lunch.

Kerzman reported that while preschool attendance is going up, kindergarten readiness is not, and the achievement gap proves to be stubborn as well, increasing slightly, but not as much as they had hoped it would.

Some initiatives in place are to focus on reader training and instruction on math--but Kerzman said, "poverty is hitting our Detroit Lakes students hard," making meeting these improvement goals difficult.

Pelican Rapids is also working with the Detroit Lakes school district to introduce Somali ambassadors and Native American ambassadors to students in order to teach them about diverse cultures and expand their worldviews.

As for transportation to and from school for students, the district is looking to replace a few vehicles: trading out a few activities buses, a service-size truck, and an activities Suburban, which has over 100,000 miles.

The district is also looking to implement a system, which will sync all bus routes into one easy-to-access framework, easily adjusting routes to make them more efficient for students and bus drivers alike.

After the agenda's items had been ticked off, Buboltz, Lyngaas, and Seaworth said their final remarks, thanking the board, teachers, administration, and public for a good run, and they collected plaques presented by Superintendent Doug Froke for their time served.

"These board members are on the board for the right reason, and these members are here for the right reason. I don't like it when somebody questions integrity because these people have integrity. They're here with what's best for kids, but also what's best for our employees--and that's something that is not optional for you board members," said Dr. Seaworth, adding a thank you to the new board members and all those who ran for the school board during this election. "Whomever supported you, you're now answerable mostly to our community's children, and you have an obligation to support our staff and our teachers and our administration...We have got a lot of work to do."

And with that, after 20 years of service, Dr. Seaworth gavelled out his final school board meeting.