Legislative changes offer levy options

money clip artSchool board begins process to determine referendum amount

The Independent School District 834 School Board will have several options to choose from when it decides what amount it will ask voters to approve in an operating levy renewal referendum this fall.

The board’s financial advisor presented various levy amount scenarios during the board’s Thursday learning session. Legislative changes regarding education created several options for the district to consider regarding the operating levy renewal.

One specific change is pupil units are now calculated by an adjusted pupil rate. Previously, the number of pupil units encompassed all students in the ISD 834 (10,836.17). Now, only students who specifically attend the Stillwater area public school district (9,680.35) are included in that count. Also added were a third tier of aid eligibility, a $300 local school board option and a $424 pupil metro location equity revenue.

The levy revenue request has not increased, remaining at $16.2 million for a revenue goal. That figure includes $11.1 million the school district has been discussing the last few months to continue current programs and $5.2 million for security improvements and paying for the new Bridge to Excellence strategic plan.

The recent legislative changes benefit the school district in the following ways: since the district changes to a Tier 1 school, they are eligible for an estimated $468,000 state aid portion regardless of voter approved or local school board approved selection. There is still the $4 to $6 million in unfunded state mandates that must be addressed in fiscal year 2014-15.

The change in pupil unit calculation, which originally had the levy renewal request at $1,495 per pupil, would change due to the reduced number of students included in the pupil unit count, resulting in a request to voters of $1,673.49. Overall, the new levy law would cost owners of an home valued at $250,000 $183.11 per year, a decrease of $16.79 from the original plan.

The $1,673.49 scenario is the all-or-nothing option. Other scenarios presented to the board Thursday cover a variety of different funding plans from the sources allotted to the district through recent legislation. Superintendent Corey Lunn said options seeking $1,373.49 or $949.49 per adjusted pupil unit were likely the most viable. He added that he would consider the pros and cons of the options and present his findings to the board July 18.

At its business meeting later Thursday, the board:

  •           Heard a presentation by Dennis Bloom regarding the Alternative Facilities projects, health and safety budget and a policy review. Major projects cited by Bloom included finishing the roof over E-Wing at Stillwater Area High School this year at a cost of $550,000. Overall, district-wide projects are expected to cost $3,863,000. The budgets and plans will be approved at the next board meeting.
  •           Had a first reading of the district’s disciplinary policy. No major changes were made except for including fake cigarettes or electronic cigarettes in the nuisance object category and added posturing as a disciplinary offense.