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Community meetings, school walk-throughs set up
By Lynda Berg Olds
All who live within the School District of Luck should have recently received a schedule of Community Meetings and a Referendum Newsletter. This comprehensive mailing is in an effort to provide taxpayers with sufficient information to make an informed decision about an upcoming referendum vote come spring. Citizens are urged to attend one of the Referendum Community Input Meetings and Facility Walk-throughs to be held in the commons area near the main entrance of the school at the following times: Sept. 24 at 4 p.m; Oct. 8 at 9 a.m; Oct. 9 at 1 p.m; 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Luck School District Administrator Cory Hinkel says feedback from these sessions will help drive the spring 2019 referendum question.
In Hinkel's message to the Luck Community, he began, “The School District of Luck is very fortunate to have residents that support the educational process and have a vested interest in the future of the children of the area.”
This, Hinkel said, was evident as the community supported the $300,000 per year operational referendum that was passed in April of 2014. Without these additional funds, $300,000 would need to be cut from the budget, most likely in the areas of school supplies, technology, staff, and extracurricular activities.
“The current operational referendum is expiring after the 2018-19 school year, and the District will again be asking taxpayers to vote on continuing this operational referendum for another five years at the same $300,000 per year rate in April 2019.”
 Since the District is asking for the same rate as in previous years, Hinkel noted the effect on taxes will be minimal.
“The District prides itself on offering a well-rounded education and experience for its students,” Hinkel continued. “Ongoing funds from an operational referendum can aid in this endeavor. In addition to the operational referendum, the District is considering a referendum to cover the cost of much-needed capital improvements. In recent years, the District has focused its efforts on energy efficiency and safety and security improvements. However, a recent facility evaluation identified problem areas in our aging facility. This included everything from updating our classroom cabinetry and sinks to bringing a majority of our bathrooms to ADA compliance.”
In addition to what basically amounts to maintenance and some updates, the District was also presented with options to renovate the current elementary gym into a shared auditorium space and construct a new School/Community Wellness Center. 
 “As a District, we strive to provide an educational landscape focused on respect, integrity, and excellence,” stated Hinkel. “Your input will help us do that! This newsletter contains more information about each proposed option. The District will also be holding scheduled referendum community meetings to gather community feedback. Your participation in this process will be a valuable resource as the District continues to plan for future opportunities for our students and the community.” 
For more information (in addition to the tremendous amount of data shared in the newsletter, detailing each of three options) on the 2019 spring referendum, visit
What most folks want to know is how much it is going to cost them in terms of property tax. The three options are for $4 million, $8.5 million and $11.5 million. The cost associated with the options equate to “a free stick of gum, the cost of a bottle of soda – or the cost of one Starbucks coffee per day.
September 20, 2018
Community members urged to tour school
By Lynda Berg Olds
“We had our first walk-through here,” stated Luck Superintendent Cory Hinkel at Monday night's regular meeting of the school board, “and it was not as well attended as we would have liked – so Luke and I are going to look at different ways to promote it better.”
Hinkel said they were going to reach out to the Lions Club, the Community Club, Skyward, etc.
“I appreciate the papers for getting that information out there. They've done a nice job with that. We have all the information on the website, which is basically the information that we have on the flier that was sent out. We need to just keep getting the information out there to get community involvement.”
This is all about the referendum questions that will come to a vote in the spring. There are three options, which have been discussed at length.
“People need to realize that we want their input in this process,” stressed Hinkel. “Things have not been set already – this is part of gathering that input and think that is some of the misconceptions that come up – like, 'well, you already decided what you are going to do for the referendum,' but we have not.”
Hinkel noted the fliers went out two Fridays ago and there are extras if anybody wants to drop them here or there.
“It might be worth noting that some people haven't got them,” stated School Board member Todd Route. “So if they want them can they get them from the school?”
That was an affirmative. There are copies in the school office. Hinkel said two people not receiving the flier were “two too many.” He said they were sent to everybody with a zip code of 54853. School Board President Jacob Jensen said to be sure and send the flier to all of the parents and he asked about the distribution of the community ed newsletter. Hinkel said that publication is sent even beyond the district – to Frederic and Unity Districts as well. Hinkel said the referendum/facility study data will also be out there on social media soon and some ads will be taken out as well.
“In order to make an informed decision, you really need to do a walk-through,” Hinkel said. He really expected more than two people to show up for the walk through on Sept. 24. He is trying to reach the maximum audience. Some posters will be printed and displayed in as many places as possible and school board members have been asked to “drop them everywhere.” To that end Educator Dean Roush suggested talking to people and having tours during the Pancake Supper, which takes place in November. All kinds of ideas were bandied in the hopes of best saturating the school district “market.”
The next walk-throughs are scheduled for Oct. 8 and 9. They will coincide with parent/teacher conferences and be held at multiple times – at 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Wage increases based on performance, longevity
By Lynda Berg Olds
Monday night's meeting of the Centuria Village Board was very brief. During Department Reports, Trustee Stanley Swiontek asked Police Chief Eric Jorgenson if he was getting letters out to the public with regards to Fall Clean-up and Jorgenson replied that indeed he is. Beyond his written report, Chief Jorgenson didn't have much to add.
Village President Rod Peterson observed that Jorgenson had not spent much time in court in the month of September, to which he responded, “Write a good report, you don't have to go to court.”
Peterson said, “I'm happy with it (the police report) as long as the rest of you guys are...”
The trustees indicated they were well satisfied with Jorgenson's performance and President Peterson said to him, “Keep up the good work.”
Peterson asked if there were any other reports and Village Clerk/Treasurer Karen Edgell said that she had the library's budget in hand – with some big changes. She passed out copies to the trustees and urged them to look over the numbers and contact Library Director Leslie Peterson or Tanna Worrell with any questions prior to the budget meeting this Wednesday.
Trustee Gordon Moore then noted that the Finance Committee met with Midwestone Bank, and said, “I wasn't very impressed.”
Other trustees chimed in saying they had nothing against the financial institution, there just wasn't enough of a reason to go through the hassle of changing all the accounts. All the trustees agreed the village should just stick with RCU for now.
“They were very nice guys and I have nothing against them,” Moore concluded.
The Personnel Committee also met with Department heads and decided rather than go with a straight percentage wage increase across the board, they elected to base the percentage on longevity of the employees, as well as performance.
“Some got more than others, but everybody was happy, us and the department heads,” stated Trustee Swiontek.
“Are we comparable with other towns?” queried Peterson.
“Yes,” said Swiontek. “We looked at all that too. We are about average with a little higher and a little lower.”
The recommendation from Personnel was in the form of a motion, so all that was needed was a second, which came from Trustee Katie Hamm.
All were in favor and the wages and benefits for 2019 was approved.
October 11, 2018
Luck property tax increase minimal
By Lynda Berg Olds
Auditors Brock Geyen and Sarah Kobs of CliftonLarsenAllen were present for the budget workshop meeting of the Luck Village Board on Monday night. Geyen has guided the board for many years in terms of their budget.
“The way this works, the State has a limitation on how much you can raise your levy. Generally speaking the only increase comes from net new construction and it doesn't really affect your overall levy because it is a new taxable property.”
Geyen pointed out that the net new construction amount is $1,713. He said with everything else being equal, that number is the amount the levy can be raised. He noted the way the formula works is the village starts with what the levy was last year ($559K) and adds the net new construction and the amount becomes $561,560.
Geyen pointed out there is a new item in the budget/levy formula, which is a deduction (deduct 2019 personal property aid).
“This deduction of $2,235 is new this year – a negative deduction for personal property. That is a negative adjustment for personal property. It will reduce your levy, but then you get the aid so it is revenue this brings your levy down to your new base of $559,325.”
Geyen noted that utilizing this formula, the village has (for the most part) lived within their levy base.
“Whatever the calculation with these small automatic adjustments, that's what you have set your levy towards in the past. Whatever you set this year becomes the starting point next year. The rule of thumb, best practice, is you don't go backwards...what you have not taken advantage of in the past is something called 'debt service adjustment.' We do about 45 budgets that do not add to their levy base when they take on debt. The reason is the way legislation is structured right now is the only way you can increase the levy is through your net new construction.”
So when the village takes on big projects (like the Main Street Improvement Project), they have to start thinking about whether they are going to take advantage of the debt service levy, which allows them to tag on the amount on top of the village's base levy for one year.
“So next year that comes off automatically. And it keeps you at your base every year...if your debt is for five years, you have this additional levy adjustment for five years and then it comes off so you are back at your base at the end of your debt's life.”
Geyen said many municipalities are using this system as a strategy, which allows them to levy more. But the down side is that the mill (tax) rate is going to go up.
“You are taxing more because you are paying for more – if you can't fit improvements into your operational budget.”
The village has $139,125 due and payable in 2019, so technically they can take that amount as a debt service adjustment – but, as Geyen said, “that would not be practical because your mill rate would go way up.”
Fortunately for taxpayers, the village is allowed to take any increment of that $139K and add it to their levy limit. In the original worksheet provided by auditor Geyen, he plugged in $59,315, which jacked up the mill rate from 8.5 to 9.3, which in turn would jack up property taxes for the village from $849 for property assessed at $100,000 to $934.
Geyen briefly discussed the village's debt service authorized after 2005.
“We spent a bit of time trying to get an understanding as we don't have your debt repayment schedule yet for the project out here. There's two things – there's the downtown beautification project and there's the culvert project. You are not having to pay for all of that. You got $500,000 worth of grant funding (CDBG), you've got the water utility paying $100,000 of it, the county is paying for half of the culvert project – and the lake association is kicking-in $15,000 – so the total is almost $1.6 million and you've got sources paying for $704,000 of it. That means you've got to take out debt, estimating at this point, of $846,000.”
Geyen said he built-in a full payment for debt service of $139,125 into the budget, but he noted the board did not have to do that. In fact he said it was likely that they would not even have a payment due in 2019.
“What you are going to do is take the proceeds from the State Trust Fund loan and pay off the bank – and you will pay on the State Trust Fund loan a year later as that will hit in 2020 – so here is where you have a lot of flexibility...”
And flex the trustees did. They made all kinds of changes, but no action was taken as this was just a “workshop.” Suffice it to say for now that the trustees are doing their level best to hold the line on taxes. All were present for this important meeting and the budget will be approved at the next regular meeting of the Luck Village Board. Just a reminder, the board meets on the second Wednesday of each month for its regular meeting and the start time has been changed from 7:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The Luck Enterprise section of the County Ledger Press learned later that the board took the aforementioned $59,315 number completely out of the equation, which ultimately only increased the mill rate from $8.49 per $1,000 of assessed property value to $8.71, so that equates to only about $20 more than last year for a property valuation of $100,000, a 2.57 percent increase.
With so much going on in the village in terms of improved infrastructure, trustees have worked hard to keep the cost to taxpayers as minimal as possible – and still keep the village afloat.
October 18, 2018
Final levy adopted by Luck School Board
By Lynda Berg Olds
At Monday night's meeting of the Luck School Board, the final levy number was adopted. As is par for the course, the district's annual meeting takes place prior to having all of the necessary numbers to plug into the formula, so the public (and the press) are reminded that the numbers are simply estimates.
Said annual meeting for the Luck School District took place on Sept. 24. At that time the mill (tax) rate was estimated to be $9.878 per $1,000 of assessed property value compared to $10.01 last year. After the necessary numbers were plugged in, the final mill rate was approved at $10.057, the tiniest of changes at a $0.047 increase. As for last year's taxes, the amount levied by the school district was $3,085,764. The final levy adopted Monday night by the Luck Board of Education was $3,280,701, up from the estimated levy of $3,072,929 from the annual meeting by $207,772.
In discussing the matter with Luck District Administrator Cory Hinkel, he advised that Finance Manager Victor Drost made the point about the budget that $31,000 is being levied for private charter schools.
“This district has to levy this money and then transfer the full amount to the private school.,” he said. Also, open enrollment-out totals looked higher due to the fact that the rate per student had increased.
“We have paid off the buses and other debt so things have changed from that perspective as well,” Hinkel told the Enterprise/Ledger Press. 
It should be noted that the equalized value of the district went up 5.9 percent, but enrollment was down (just slightly). But Luck is receiving the three-year rolling-average declining enrollment exemption, which takes a three year average... so according to Hinkel, the “impact this year was not drastic.”
Another agenda item had to do with the Facility Study and the referendum that the public will see on spring ballots. Mr. Hinkel said there will be a special meeting on Nov. 6 at 6 p.m. to go over results with Luke Shultz from Cesa 10. 
“Board members commented on how the survey will be used as an advisory for the board to make their decision on how to proceed,” stated Hinkel, who added, “They (the board members) have heard a lot of positive feedback about the larger options.”
Hinkel said the Community Walk-throughs have taken up a lot of his time. There were five of them with each session seeing an increase in the number of people.
“Overall, I've had good feedback from them. Once people got into the building they saw a lot of what issues were as they could visibly see them. I was encouraged by the comments that we had, I just wish more people would have came through, but people's schedules are busy. With the Community Walk-throughs, the parent/teacher conferences were adjusted so they weren't in the rooms. They were in the gymnasiums and the principals will touch on that, but overall the feedback from parents was outstanding. I don't usually get emails about how great parent/teacher conferences were – but I got a few of them this time from parents – with a lot of positive comments.”
October 25, 2018
Another golf season in the books
By Lynda Berg Olds
The Luck Golf Commission held their final meeting of the year at the clubhouse on Monday night. The meeting was punctuated with plans for the future and evaluation of the past. Course Manager Kevin Clunis presented the proposed budget for the 2019 season, which was approved by the commission contingent on a few changes being made with regards to equipment and potential projects.
There was discussion about budgets being a working document, with future projects fairly fluid depending on cash flow. All in all the course is in super shape with a lot having been accomplished this year.
Some time was spent prioritizing short and long range capital improvement projects and, as Commission member Chris Peterson reminded, getting them on paper, into the budget, so they don't wind up as a postscript going forward. That is, when it comes to the Village of Luck Trustees approving the Municipal Golf Course's budget, they have made it very clear that they want to see projects planned (and budgeted) for.
This can be somewhat difficult with an enterprise that is weather- dependent, such as golfing. But even with the loss of basically two months, at the beginning and end of this year's season, the course did well. In fact, Clunis said:
“We lost two months and still had a record year of 18,392 rounds – up seven percent from last year's 17,212. We are set up for winter fairly well.”
In spite of the “record year,” there's still a lot of money going out. To the extent that there was some talk about perhaps raising cart fees.
“We haven't raised cart rates for a number of years and gas prices are going up,” stated Clunis, who noted the “anniversary members” play about 10,000 rounds, which would extrapolate to $10,000 if cart fees were raised by $1.
Commissioner Bruce Anderson advised caution with that, saying $17 is the “magic number.”
Clunis said the current cart fee sits at $16.88 and dropped the subject for the time being.
On another subject, Clunis advised that he had received $6,790 from the Country Club, whose agreement is to pay the course 20 percent of their revenue. He did note however that the number did not include October sales, but the course will receive the 20 percent come spring.
Anderson briefly broached a touchy subject:
“Do we want to talk about how they come up with those numbers...?”
Apparently nobody did – and the age-old conflict between the “upstairs and downstairs” was swept under the rug.
“Upstairs,” which is cocktails and fine dining, pays rent to the golf course and holds the unique “airport license,” that allows liquor to be sold. The license is just one of only a few statewide.
“Downstairs” Country Club Manager Gwen Anderson wasn't present for this meeting, but Clunis said he and she would be meeting this week to go through a great many things – from schedules to cost of doing business – a soup to nuts type of thing where they will determine what worked best and what did not this year.
In terms of the aforementioned priorities to get done possibly still this year, was updated POS systems for two computers, electrical upgrades up and down as fuses continue to blow, lighting for the steps going upstairs (a safety issue and a cheap fix), carpet cleaning, painting inside (downstairs) and staining the deck and steps.
Also approved at this meeting was Clunis' trip to the Golf Industry Show in San Diego, Calif., which runs from Feb. 2 - 7. Pretty much everybody wanted to go to that.
The next meeting was set for the end of February.
Clunis was going to re-work the numbers for the commissioner's benefit (for which a motion has already been made as previously mentioned) and the budget will be forwarded to the Luck Village Board.
Spoiler alert: Plans in two phases are in the works to revamp the 10th hole, thereby curtailing congestion and improving the general flow about the course and clubhouse.
November 1, 2018