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"After all these years, still doing a great job!!" -Ron Hermanson
Spoiler alert – new business coming to Milltown
By Lynda Berg Olds
Tom Rusk, of Milltown, most widely known as Good Ol' Days auctioneer extraordinaire, was present at the Village Board meeting Monday night for a couple of reasons.
“Two things,” he began. “I'm trying to downsize a little bit so I listed a bunch of properties, I listed them all. But in the sales contract it reads, 'As long as the village would like to stay there, the rent remains the same for the new buyer.' So if you wanted to be there 10 years from now, it would still remain the same. You buy it that way or you don't buy it.”
“Thank you,” said Village President LuAnn White.
“Well that was kind of our agreement when we started and I want to stick to it.”
The second issue had to do with the street that goes past the auction house (the old grocery store building) and Steve's Appliance.
“Steve Quist called me and said, 'Make sure to go to the meeting.' I don't really have an issue with this, but Steve wants his road blacktopped, which is what it amounts to. And he said he would turn the road over to you guys. Well, of course we own the road by the store. The issue I have, and you folks know it, on Sundays we line up stuff on our sidewalk and the crowd stands out in the street. Well If I turned it over, people would have the right to honk and blare their horn and tell people to get off the street, I mean it would be a public street.
“Granted, anybody would like their stuff blacktopped, but I don't know what to do. Steve keeps coming over – and I don't want any issues in town. Steve is a friend. But we do have an issue with all the trucks coming from Holiday. If you notice there are big curbs out there and they are all broken up. I am going to have to go out there and do concrete and blacktop repair. I'm working with an outfit out of Minnesota and that is $14,000. So if I am going to have it done I am going to block it off – or those boys will have it torn up in two years time.
“I've had people screaming at me that this is a public road, a public parking lot and I've been called every name in the book.”
Trustee Glenn Owen stated, “But you own that parking lot.”
“Yes I do,” said Rusk, but they still do it. We have people coming in all the time. On Sunday afternoons, the lake people pull up in between our two dumpsters and also over here at Lumberjacks, where people are pulling up with their fancy SUVs that they open up and throw garbage in there like crazy. We catch them all the time.”
Rusk related to the board that he is going to block off the west side. He is going to get 12 big concrete barriers like highways use.
“I will just take a skidster and place them and then next year when it is time for the Fishermen's Party, I will just pick them up and move them off to the side so people can use the parking lot. I will work with people – but it is the ones...already one big window is blown out of the north side, you've probably seen the plywood there. A kid came around there and spun their tires and right through the window. It's $800 to replace that and with a $500 deductible, you might as well just pay for it yourself.
“I just don't know what to do. I guess I'm looking for answers from you. I mean is it causing a problem for you if we block that road off?”
“No, not at all,” said White.
Trustee Joe Castellano echoed that statement: “It's your road. Do what you want to do.”
Owen suggested putting “private drive” signs at the north and south entrances.
Rusk said he has tried that. He told a story about some lady who pulled up in a blue SUV, got out, moved the big long barricade aside, jumped back in her vehicle and kept on going (out onto Highway 35).
“How about a chain?” suggested White.
Rush agreed that might be one way to stop the traffic through his private property, but he was going to install big gates.
“It is a private parking lot, but it is ours. But I let everybody use it. There was one guy who had been drinking at Lumberjacks and he shot out of the parking spot and hit the center light pole, pushed the concrete and everything and the light is sitting at a 10 degree angle. But if somebody gets hurt over there, it is my liability insurance...and we are dealing with people who drink...”
Owen noted he only drives through the lot once or twice a year – to look at something for the auction.
“I don't know what to do. But no matter what we do, we can't please everybody.”
“Well it is yours Tom and you need to do whatever works for you,” stated White.
Rusk then commented, “I'm just so worried about Steve. He is going to be all upset one way or the other...”
Trustee Erling Voss remarked, “It has never been public.” and White added, “It has never been a bona fide street – ever!”
White noted that the village couldn't get to that area for any kind of project this year and likely not next.
“It's not our road,” stressed Castellano, who noted there are a lot of other roads the village needs to work on.
Finally, Rusk said he has two new renters coming in.
“You'll like both of them. There's a grocery store/pizza place and a liquidation outfit out of the Twin Cities.”
That was all the information forthcoming on the quadrant. Talk about burying the lead!
September 12, 2019
Village taking care of business
By Lynda Berg Olds
At Wednesday's (Sept. 11) meeting of the Luck Village Board, some changes were made to the 2019 street outlay. The agenda item specified: “Discussion and possible action to remove South Shore Drive and add Jensen Boulevard to be done this fall.
In the absence of Public Works Director Seth Petersen, Trustee Ron Steen said he would address the issues.
“I went with Seth yesterday and he pointed out that we have to patch Robertson road over by the Maple Syrup place and then we have to go to Highway 48, where they dug up a valve, which went really well I guess. Then, by the school bus garage they want a lot of patching done - and around the corner.
“Then the culvert behind Don Larson's to the west, they had to dig that up. And the money is coming out of the water budget, is what Seth told me. He said he had everything covered.”
In the meantime, Petersen had left a handout for trustees (and the press), which provided a few more details. In it, he noted that this past winter created some “bad spots” in a couple of areas this spring.
“We dug them out and fixed them,” stated Petersen. “I got pricing on the repairs from Monarch, which is $7,500 to pave them. There is a patch near the bus garage, one near the hotel on Robertson Road and a culvert that we replaced last fall in an alley near Butternut Avenue and Fourth Street.”
Petersen advised that the 2019 budget for street outlay was $105,412.
“We planned on $15,750 for a turn around at South Shore Drive. My proposal is to not pave the turn around and get these patches added into the 2019 street outlay. It appears that there will be some overages on the current street projects but my estimate for this year's projects, including these patches would be $99,900.”
That is a decrease from the original budget of about $5,500 and Petersen said he thinks the board should approve these changes.
“Then we can get a plan for South Shore Drive accomplished over winter,” he concluded.
Trustee Mike Miller asked, “What is happening at South Shore?”
Steen responded, “Seth told me we won't get to it this year so it is going to have to be put on next spring – that's what he told me yesterday.”
Village President Dave Rasmussen made the motion to “remove the South Shore Drive expenditure from the 2019 street outlay – and to replace it with whatever Seth sees fit, according to his report.”
That motion was approved unanimously.
In other business, it is number-crunching time for all levels of government, including the Village of Luck. To that end, the budget workshop will be held on Oct. 15 at 5 p.m.
Rasmussen then shared the information that the Wisconsin League of Municipalities is holding their annual conference in Green Bay from Oct. 23 to Oct. 25.
“Through an endowment, the League is able to offer four scholarships to the conference. Entering the scholarship contest is easy. Winners will be drawn from all completed scholarships received by Sept. 27. Winners will receive free registration for all three days and that registration is $225 for members; three nights of free hotels at the Hyatt Regency; stipend of 55 cents per mile for the round trip distance traveled and $100 Visa gift card to cover other expenses.”
Rasmussen said any municipal staff member or officials are welcome to enter. And he also noted that Luck has not been represented at the conference in the past five years. He noted that he has gone – as part of work with MSA.
Trustee Mike Broten asked if there are a lot of small towns represented at the conferences and Rasmussen said there absolutely are (the point being it is not just for big cities like Madison and Milwaukee).
“It is usually a good conference to go to,” enthused Rasmussen.
Finally, Rasmussen noted the Village of Luck is one of eight communities that is part of the Polk County Community Housing Study. He said they are working with the University of Wisconsin – River Falls Survey Research Center and a survey will be mailed to a random sample of working households throughout the county to help identify the housing needs and preferences of the Polk County workforce. Rasmussen urged anyone who receives a survey to please fill it out and send it back as it will benefit the overall study results and help communities identify specific needs. Responses are confidential.
Several reports were also received from trustees. Mike Broten commented on the huge success of the fire department's annual corn feed; and noted the golf course is looking for insurance monies to come in after the storm damage on the course. The Golf Commission will meet on Monday, Sept. 23 at 5:30 p.m. at the clubhouse.
Steen attended the annual meeting of the Big Butternut Lake Management District and shared some highlights. He said the lake level has been raised 14 inches and they are happy with the level of the water right now.
“They have Curly-leaf Pondweed now and they discussed that and there is celery weed and they don't really know what to do with that. I asked Teresa (Anderson, from MSA) about dredging the ponds on the north side of the lake. They had a quote a couple years ago for over $100,000 to dredge those ponds. I am thinking that can't be right. I couldn't believe it would be that much money.
“Bob Winters said they oiled the eggs for the geese, but there weren't many back up there. They talked about cleaning up the goose poop at the boat landing. But other people have it on their docks too and will likely push it into the lake – everyone has been doing that. They talked about the Clean Boats, but I don't think they are going to do that anymore. And they did pay out $15,000 for a payment on the dam. And that was all. It was an interesting meeting.”
Trustee Matt Lorusso reported more of Tourism Director Sherrie Johnson's signage success.
“I noticed today that another sign that Sherrie wanted to get changed to have our name of Luck on it – was changed today by Polk County, right outside of Milltown heading north, the green sign that points north now says Luck and Superior.”
September 19, 2019
School tax levy drops by $97 per $100,000
By Lynda Berg Olds
Luck District Administrator Cory Hinkel took to the podium Monday night to deliver his report at the Annual District Meeting. It was full of good news:
“Another great year here continuing our momentum moving forward. Our strategic plan has been put fully in place, something we have worked on from the beginning, focusing on our district mission:
“To achieve excellence by supporting and focusing on the needs of others to ensure the maximum potential of each individual.”
He commented that professional development has centered around the mission, discipline and technology. He also noted that the district was successful last year with the operational referendum and thanked the taxpayers for that.
“We've had a lot of other wonderful things happen to our district – the Frandsen Scholarships; new schedules in the middle school and high school – and the elementary; our 4K continues to be a success; the Child Care continues to have students and we've had some room movement; we've got additional technology such as our CNC machine and computers in the computer lab, and we implemented a salary structure for our teachers this year as well, that has been successful.
“Moving forward, we need to continue on our referendum for our building, making sure we are providing the best, positive learning environment for our students. Also, we are going to continue to explore a charter school concept for our district and look at different ways for health insurance to help maintain that cost – as that has a huge impact on our budget – and continue to give our students a well-rounded education that serves them going forward.”
Following that summary, Hinkel moved on to the budget, highlighting several items. First was an increase in the fund balance over last year, from $1,497,804 to $1,541,892, which he said was money saved from health insurance.
Hinkel pointed out state and federal revenue sources have gone up just slightly from the previous year, but overall revenue has gone down a bit because of local sources and how the revenue limits work.
Expenditures are also slightly down, but Luck is spending more money for special education than last year by $78,000, which is a direct correlation to the amount of special ed students Luck has.
Hinkel moved on to debt service and said the last payment for the building loan will be this year, which is why they are not levying for as much money. He said that loan payment is quite a bit lower for the last year and noted that the district has been paying extra on it.
The food service fund is running at a positive $6,000, which Hinkel attributed to not only good management, but also child care participants along with the summer food program.
As for the Community Education Fund, Hinkel said the amount of money coming and going has increased, what with the initial start-up costs of 'The Nest' Child Care to get the program up and running.
“After this year we will have a better understanding of where we are and how well the child care is actually doing. There is a slight increase in the levy for that – with added expenses for the child care and other possibilities of working with the playground for the child care and the weight room facility there as well.
“So our total expenditures are down about $500,000. Our proposed tax levy is down as well, about $300,000 from 2018-2019 (from $3,280,701 to $2,965,318. And in the end, it is dropping our mil rate .97, or $97 per $100,000 (in assessed property value). We are going from 10.0576 mil rate to 9.0907 mil rate.”
Thus, the resolution followed that the proposed annual budget be accepted and the tax levy be set at $2,965,318.
September 26, 2019
School, village looking to grow the Luck community
By Lynda Berg Olds
The Luck Plan Commission met with members of the Luck School Board and Superintendent Cory Hinkel Monday night. The meeting took place at the behest of the school and the single agenda item was “discussion regarding capital improvements and street uses.
Hinkel started things off, introducing board members Rick Palmer and Todd Roehm. He noted the recent referendum failed, with several community members opposing the construction of a parking lot on the field between 7th Street and the lake.
“Parking and safety has been a major issue as we have gone through this process. But a lot of people told us they did not want that green space used for a parking lot. What it doesn't do is help us with our congestion before and after school and at events with our parking lot area. Being proactive, we want to make sure if we do things with the referendum – or if there are other things that we can do with the village, we want to have that discussion. We want to make sure the village doesn't have any short-term or long-range plans of putting roads in – or doing something different, where it would look like we didn't work together. We want to find something that is useful for the district, and also for the village if things expand.”
Hinkel stressed that school parking is tight, noting anybody that has been there during pick-up and drop-off can see that it is not a very good flow of traffic.
“At games people park everywhere. It is just the way it is.”
Roehm spoke next, saying from his perspective, student safety is the most important thing at the end of the day.
“I think it is more than just the school's responsibility. I think it is kind of a village responsibility that we think about the safety of the kids who live in our community. If there is something we can do better...to hear someone say, 'Well, nothing has ever happened there yet...' It doesn't take much to go down there and see that it is unsafe in the mornings. You guys have been helpful with Monte and Seth (Police Chief and Public Works Director) helping to get the road closed in the mornings – but we can do more, we can do better. I don't think it should take an accident or something happening to a kid – for us to all get together and say, 'hey, we maybe should have done something different with that parking lot a long time ago...to work together with the village on a good, long-range plan to get access to that parking lot to the school.”
Village and Plan Commission President Dave Rasmussen commented that he knows this is not a new development.
“It has been like this for many, many years and at one time when we did our Comprehensive Plan over 10 years ago, we were looking at some possibilities with the school properties and trying to get a road through there, past the nursing home and bypass that street (7th Street) as much as possible, maybe even dead-ending at the Pedersen home (just south of the parking lot).”
Rasmussen said that was part of the long-range plan, as was the possibility of a housing subdivision, for which Cedar Corporation drew up plans. Rasmussen also noted that Luck, along with the county and seven other municipalities are participating in a comprehensive housing study right now. Luck is a sponsor and will receive an individual plan.
“With that housing study, maybe we can look at this again in terms of getting a street through there and killing two birds with one stone – the traffic issue and bringing in some housing.”
Palmer (former Luck School Superintendent) said, “I think that is why we are here. The options that we have are pretty limited on our own as far as a roadway or whatever. When Cedar Corp drew that up 10 or 11 years ago, you guys were talking about doing a sewer and water loop so you didn't have a dead end. I think now could be the time for more discussion. We looked at property you owned, we talked about doing a property switch, because if we were to sell that property to the village, then that income basically goes against the school's revenue. It is not beneficial, it hurts the school district to do that, so maybe there is some other property we can look at and do some bartering and come up with a plan together. Maybe it is time to have that discussion again.”
Rasmussen asked the school contingent if they had alternate plans for another parking lot and Hinkel responded that they are really limited with the street and lake.
“We have looked at the possibility of putting a road out to Fourth Street back through our field and coming out that way to alleviate traffic a little bit, but doing that – and then if you guys were putting a road in, that wouldn't make any sense.”
Palmer asked Rasmussen about the housing study and he said there will be a forum in December and the study may be complete by as early as next spring, which would help with some of the planning.
“One of our goals would be to provide more opportunities for people to move to town – to increase our enrollment at the school. Cory is working on a grant to be a magnet tech-ed school. With the Frandsen grants and scholarships I think it is just an ideal time for us to tie in something like that, which might open up some other avenues for other businesses who might be interested in coming to town – with more housing necessary. I'm not a housing market person. I don't know if there are enough homes in town now for people. Do we need to be looking for housing as an opportunity to draw people to town?”
Rasmussen said that is part of the study that is going on and asked how many teachers live in Luck.
Hinkel said the younger ones want to.
“They want to find a decent house at a decent price. To find that they have gone to St. Croix Falls and Balsam Lake. A few of them do. The ones that we have been hiring lately have been trying to stay in Luck.”
Plan Commission member Nick Piszczek asked what the school would like to see ideally.
Hinkel said he thinks that road through the back.
“Something to alleviate the congestion and shut down that road where are main parking lot – or get our kids out of that parking lot. We have three factions that come in there: We have the buses coming in and out to drop off, we have the parents coming in and dropping off and then we have the students exiting the parking lot – all trying to occur at the same time.”
Piszczek agreed it is a cluster.
“If we could alleviate one of those and not have them all happening in the same area...that's where we talked about having the students exit thought the field and back out on to Fourth Street.”
Roehm chimed in with:
“Right now the best case scenario that goes on there – right now – is that almost every drop-off person drives in front of the school twice. That is not ideal. We are sending every piece of traffic that goes through that at a busy time – twice. So your potential of a accident doubles, then you have the kids driving through there. Every single kid that drives goes through the same drop-off zone at least once. So if you couldn't get out on to Seventh Street and you had to come in from a back way, I think we would save a ton of traffic from intersecting with students walking across the road.”
Palmer noted there are also a lot of folks who go past there to use the cut across to go to Balsam Lake. Plus the golfers and fishermen – and residents.”
Trustee Mike Miller was present and he asked why so many many parents were dropping off and picking up their kids.
Open enrollment accounted for a big part of the answer as 40 or 50 kids live outside of the district where the bus does not go. Also, Roehm said for him it is a personal choice. He doesn't like his kids to sit on a bus that long – and he is going to work anyway.
The upshot of the deal is these talks are going to be continuing between the school and the village. They are determined to work together. At one point Rasmussen commented that the school owns the only real feasible property there is for the village to expand. There was more discussion about the subdivision and what that would/could look like. It would basically be in the field east of United Pioneer Home. Water looping could also be done – as “dead end” water is less than desirable.
One thing is crystal clear – there is change afoot (possible growth!), and both the village and school have the best interest of the community at heart.
October 3, 2019
Small tax increase likely in Milltown
By Lynda Berg Olds
Prior to the regular meeting of the Milltown Village Board on Monday night they held their budget meeting with CliftonLarsonAllen's April Anderson.
The proposed budget shows just a one percent increase and water rates are going up. Last year the increase was just under two percent and prior to that the number was historically three percent. Village President LuAnn White said in terms of the mil rate, Milltown has one of the highest. The board does an admirable job of trying to hold the line, but when all was said and done at Monday night's meeting, the projected increase to taxpayers was estimated at about $12 per $100,000 of assessed property value.
“If we do everything this tells us to do, next year we are going to have quite a time,” stated White. “That's the dilemma.”
It should be noted there was no vote on this as of yet. There is still time. It was simply information for the board to digest, but said information was based on sound principals.
Anderson said, “I think you are set well to do it this year. These expenditures are all operating ones, not necessarily capital ones. They are not one-time expenditures, so the increase in this expense would continue, if not increase more.”
Anderson said the library fund was the next item up for discussion, just the operating piece of it and not anything to do with the capital building project going on. She indicated that levy was proposed to stay the same.
Libraries are (more or less) autonomous when it comes to budgets as they (more or less) govern themselves. Anderson turned the floor over to Library Director Bonnie Carl.
“The proposed budget is slightly higher than 2019. In fact, we are asking for exactly the same amount as we did last year. We are aware of our outstanding debt for the building, so we want to be cognizant of that and very conservative in asking for money – so we stayed at where we were at. We did get an increase from the county who bumped up ACT 150 monies to 90 percent.
“We did increase our building maintenance and furnishing. We are going to add a cleaning service to our expenses as we have quite a bit bigger building and elderly staff so we need to make sure we have a clean building. We are also increasing some of our education for conferences to get on top of that, which also includes expenses for meals and mileage. We did keep our technology low because we are hoping to get grants to pay for some of that. And for the wages, we stuck with the three percent increase.”
Anderson said, “It is $79,000 added in to the $297,000 that we show in the general fund at this point in time and then added in to some of the next couple of pieces will get you to your overall levy for the village.”
Next came the debt service.
“The debt service increased quite a bit with $84,000 coming due in principal and interest in 2020. This is taking into consideration the library paying 50 percent – of their portion of that debt service...then you get down to what you can potentially add to your levy. You do have room to increase the levy if you wanted to – more than the one percent that we are showing. We are just trying to work with all the different pieces coming together.”
Anderson moved on to the Capital Project Fund.
“This is where you have worked things into this fund with the available capacity that you had in the levy. The expenditure side of things – the loader is a given that you have to make that payment. The rest of them, the chop sealing, lawn mowing, skidsteer – are all ones that you've levied for over a couple of years so that you could replace it on a rotation. The available capital improvements show what is left that you have to consider.
“In the end, we are utilizing some of the general fund, the $41,000 available fund balance.”
Clerk/Treasurer Amy Albrecht wondered if there were any other scenarios the trustees wanted Anderson to work out. Trustee Joe Castellano said no.
Anderson noted the village's net new construction number was low at .007 and there is a 1.89 percent allowable increase, which falls within the levy revenue limit formula. She also urged the board to consider sustainability going forward with increase.
October 17, 2019
The Beer Tree must be “the best ever”
By Lynda Berg Olds
The meeting of the Luck Golf Commission on Monday didn't come to pass for lack of a quorum, but the Enterprise/Ledger Press spoke at length with Course Superintendent Kevin Clunis with regards to the agenda items, primarily the proposed budget.
Although rounds were down this year, that became evident early on with the constant deluge, allowing for the proverbial belt to be tightened expenses-wise, thus contributing less impact to the bottom line. In fact, total revenue exceeded last year by about $75,000, but $65,000 of that number came in form of insurance reimbursement for storm damage.
The “Public Charges for Services” (PCFS), which is what revenues are called at the Luck Municipal Golf Course for 2019, amount to $460,302, compared to $472,928 last year. And the conservative estimate for next year is $466,500.
The course has a nice cushion from the three-year memberships, whose revenue rightly gets spread out over the three years. Right now, those golf “savings” sit just shy of $140,000, $60,000 of which stays in reserve, $20,000 of which is earmarked for capital equipment, and for 2020, there is $59,000 for tree replacement.
The IGCFS (Intergovernmental Charges for Services) for 2019 includes the insurance for property damage, donations and the sale of some golf course property (old equipment sold). That amount for 2019 is $109,794, which is added to the $460,302, for the total 2019 revenue of $570,096. Donations were $34,000 and equipment sold, about $7,500.
Clunis said, “I have done a little tweaking on the proposed budget since last month. The capital budget line is down a bit but the building maintenance budget went up to accommodate a few more projects. There were nine trees planted last week and another 10 next week - including the new Beer Tree!”
But with the current rain, the beer tree might not get planted for a bit as no one wants to see any damage done to the course in the process. But the Balsam Fir is supposed to be a real beauty. Clunis only half-joke that this is how he will be remembered, so the tree has to be “the best tree ever.” He has been guaranteed by Willow River Tree Service that the tree has been selected - and is perfect, but he is still reserving the right to see for himself.
There are several project ideas in the offing, most importantly Phase II of the 10th Tee Project, which is a major renovation with a price tag of about $22,000. To finish all the Tee Signs will cost about $4,200; and to replace the fence at the end of the range will be $1,200 – as will fencing along the North side of the range (another $1,200).
The wish list in the Maintenance Area is a bit more spendy. Lights in the building will be about $700, renovating the cart storage building will cost about $4,100; asphalt in the third and fourth bays will cost about $10,000, as will asphalt for the south side of the building. Asphalt prices have been on the rise for some time...with no end in site.
There are any number of Building Maintenance items for the Clubhouse (14 to be exact), so it remains to be seen what all will be accomplished for the 2020 season.
Dining numbers were down this year in the Clubhouse as the kitchen wasn't open nearly as much and liquor sales were down as well. The Course received a check from the Clubhouse, as per agreement, for $6,000 and it was noted that they would like it to be earmarked for needed range equipment replacement.
October 24, 2019
Final levy to taxpayers decreases
By Lynda Berg Olds
In the Sept. 26 issue of the Enterprise Press, following the Annual Meeting of the Luck Board of Education, Superintendent Cory Hinkel was quoted, stating:
“Our proposed tax levy is down about $300,000 from 2018-2019 (from $3,280,701 to $2,965,318). And in the end, it is dropping our mil rate .97, or $97 per $100,000 (in assessed property value). We are going from 10.0576 mil rate to 9.0907 mil rate.”
Thus, the resolution followed that the proposed annual budget be accepted and the tax levy be set at $2,965,318.
However, the numbers given at the annual meeting are just projections as the final numbers from the state do not come out until mid-October. At Monday night's meeting of the Luck School Board, it was learned that equalized value went up more than projected. Thus, the mill rate is dropping from that 10.05 number to 8.938 – a bit more of a boon to taxpayers, who will now pay $89 per $100,000 of assessed property value.
The final tax levy and corresponding budget was approved by the board then, and went from $2,965,318 to $3,030,007 - so the total tax levy went up, but the mil rate went down, yielding a net savings to the taxpayer over last year of over $100 (for the school portion of property taxes).
October 31, 2019
Referendum content up in the air
By Lynda Berg Olds
Luck School hosted a Community Dinner prior to a Referendum Forum/Focus Group on Monday night. While a better turnout was hoped for, there was some good discussion. Superintendent Cory Hinkel said Tuesday morning, “I appreciate the people that showed up to voice their concerns and comments, but wish more people would show interest to help steer the decision-making process.”
Indeed he opened the meeting imploring, “We really do want to hear from you – what you want for our direction.”
Hinkel briefly gave an overview before turning the meeting over to Board of Education President Jacob Jensen. He noted they would discuss potential project areas and tax impact, which would be followed by the group discussion. He also introduced the school board members, who were all in attendance, as well as Luke Schultz, the facilities consultant from CESA 10, who has been working with the school board and administration helping them through the referendum process.
Jensen informed those gathered “how we got here.”
“We did a facilities audit in July of 2018 with the help of CESA 10. They went through our building with our facilities staff and their staff and identified a number of maintenance upgrades that need to occur. After that we developed a community survey and worked through that as a board – and went through the maintenance needs and identified priorities.
“Truly, I think it is important to note that through this process we pared down that initial list they brought to us and took away everything that we felt was not absolutely necessary. We took away anything we felt was fluff and that didn't directly impact our students...we only brought to referendum things that we thought were absolutely necessary for our district to survive. Oftentimes, school districts will present a large referendum first, shooting for the moon – and come back with a much smaller number – in the hopes that the community will pass that easily. We did not do that. We went to our voting public with absolutely what we needed.”
Jensen observed they then went through the whole ($9.5 million capital referendum) process, which failed last spring by a very narrow margin.
“What we have found through community surveys and discussion is there were some topics within the referendum that maybe caused it to fail – like the parking lot. Another one was the addition of the Wellness Center – and using green space for it, and the necessity, the actual need to address safety concerns. Those were the issues we found that were the hot button items that caused the referendum not to pass this past spring.”
One gentlemen wanted to know if all the board members and staff were 100 percent in favor of the whole referendum package.
Jensen said that at this particular moment they don't know what the package is.
“What does the school board want to see individually or as a whole?”
“We want to hear what the community is interested in and what their focus is,” replied Jensen.
Hinkel jumped in and said it ties in to what they need.
“We have deferred maintenance. The Elementary gym, the auditorium area, needs work. There's also that possibility of additional gym space. Is that something that was needed? One things that came out of this process was in the area of career and tech ed and improvements to our shop area with the possibility of hiring a shop teacher and really increasing that area into something that we can be truly proud of. We currently have a tech ed program that does fairly well but it is a 50/50 split and there is a lot of FFA stuff with it – and it is a lot for one person to handle. So what can we do to increase that [tech ed education]?”
Hinkel then went through the list of potential project areas, starting with exterior maintenance such as reseal/crack fill/patch parking lots and athletic tracks; concrete repair of sidewalks and tuckpointing.
Then came career and tech ed improvements including Family and Consumer Education (FACE) room renovations; tech ed and metals shop renovations and updating the greenhouse.
This was followed by a number of various classroom updates with items like moving from chalkboards to whiteboards, flexible seating, etc. The bathrooms also need to be brought up to ADA standards and the staff restroom to a unisex restroom. There were also other technology updates included as well as renovations to the locker rooms, weight room, district office, and concession stand.
Finally, came the Elementary Gym/Auditorium, which is in dire need of an updated stage floor, curtains, lights and gym floor.
Hinkel pointed out that last year there were 30 grads, with 26 of them going on to tech school, largely due to Dennis Frandsen who provided scholarships, but the point was tech school is being widely utilized.
“Those are all areas that have a potential impact of about $5.5 million. Then, if we look at other options – and these are things we really want input on from the community – going to a recurring referendum (in perpetuity) for $200,000. The point of that would be to be able to afford a tech ed teacher. Tech ed teachers are hard to find. There's six graduating this semester at Stout and I think another five in the spring. To get one of those teachers to run a successful shop program, you also need to have the equipment and supplies. There's a lot of things that go along with that. Also, with the recurring referendum is to address some safety concerns, with crossing guards, etc.”
Hinkel pointed out that when a referendum is for something in particular, monies can only be spent from it on said particulars.
So the next thing to address was the other $4.2 million option, which would bring the referendum up to $9.7 million.
“Then also the idea of that gym space. Adding that gym out on the end (towards the bus garage, more or less). Basically setting it there with two entrances and maybe a little lobby. Nothing over the top with that. So those are the areas that the board has been looking at. If we do that, the main thing people want to know is what is the tax impact.
“The mil rate last year was 10.05. This current year, it has dropped to 8.9 due to a number of factors including equalized value going up over three percent.”
Hinkel cautioned that individual taxes may look different say if their value went up substantially. He provided the following mill rates: It would be $9.56 for the $5.5 million referendum and $10.47 for the $9.7 million referendum. The $200,000 operational referendum would amount to an additional $0.58.
The discussion that followed was more or less all over the map. All input is perceived as good input insofar as to help provide direction to the school board on how the referendum questions should read. Only two referendum questions are allowed – and the lawyers write them with their legalese to conform with state statutes.
The school board is meeting (has met) on Nov. 13 to hash out what they got out of this community forum. The Enterprise Press will endeavor to sort it all out for next week's paper.
November 14, 2019