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"After all these years, still doing a great job!!" -Ron Hermanson
Luck explores Charter School
By Lynda Berg Olds
A tremendous amount of material was covered at Monday night's meeting of the Luck School Board, not the least of which was the exploration of what it takes to become a Charter School by Superintendent Cory Hinkel, who recently attended a Charter School Conference in Wausau.
“It is an interesting concept, you can have your emphasis on whatever you want but you still have to have CORE math and reading,” Hinkel began. “We are trying to wrap our heads around what other schools are doing. There were a lot of good conversations that I had with other schools. A lot of them are doing online things. And there are a lot of companies out there too that will assist you. The grant is a five-year $950,000 grant. As we explore charter school and look at it deeper, Mr. Werner (High School Principal) and I have been discussing how this could be a factor in how we do things in the future.
“It was a good place to learn and get my head wrapped around what charter school is all about.”
School Board President Jacob Jensen asked Hinkel to explain a bit further what the grant is all about.
“The grant would be to help us set up. The first year, you build into the grant a planning year, and there is a $150,000 for expenses to get everything set up. I will know more in October when that application comes out, which is due in February. People that I have talked to have said if you have a solid plan and you make sure everything is correct, there is a really good chance that we will get it. They said they did not give out all of the money that they had available this year.”
If successful, that first year grant would be the $150,000, followed by $200,000 for the next four years.
“Is there additional state funding for charter schools?” queried Jensen.
Hinkel said no, but commented a lot of schools are doing online consortium, where they can send their kids but keep their funding.
“There are a lot of things to explore, a lot of different models with personalized learning plans. I don't claim to be an expert yet. It could take a while.”
Jensen observed that “yet” was the operative word. Mr. Hinkel has demonstrated time and again that he is indeed a quick study.
Unfamiliar with Charter Schools, the Enterprise/Ledger Press reached out to Hinkel for a bit more information. He explained that a Charter School is basically “a school within a school.” He said Charter School has more flexibility in how lessons are structured - while still holding the students accountable.
“Personalized learning, project- based learning and virtual learning are all models currently out there. The district is exploring ideas that may work for us in this area and meet the needs of our students. The end goal is to provide an alternative unique education setting and possibly increase enrollment. We would still have our traditional setting, but students would have the option to join the charter school. How that will look is part of the research phase we are in right now.”
August 29, 2019
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