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October 20, 2003

School tax impact lower than expected

When Hamilton School District voters went to the polls last November, they expected to be voting themselves a $50 increase for each $100,000 of property they owned to pay for new facilities at Hamilton High School and Marcy Elementary School. Instead, taxes will increase $36 for each $100,000 of property and that amount includes all spending for 2003-04 along with the referendum projects.

The good news for taxpayers came Oct. 20 as Hamilton School Board members approved a $36.79 million budget that includes a mil rate of $11.40 per $1,000 of property. The owner of a $100,000 home would pay $1,140 in school taxes. The mil rate is a welcome surprise for Hamilton taxpayers because school officials had predicted that their mil rate would increase 50 cents to cover the cost of the new facilities in addition to regular cost-of-living increases for the 2003-04 budget. At the district’s Annual Meeting in July, voters approved a mil rate that was expected to be $11.67 per $1,000 of property.

The total budget increased 4.55 percent — due in part to the cost of educating more students. The district is responsible to educate an additional 77 students in 2003-04 compared to 2002-03. Even though enrollment increased significantly, state aid increased by less than one percent.

The lower-than-expected mil rate is attributable to community growth and higher property values that spread school costs over more and higher-valued properties. The district’s equalized valuation increased by 9.1 percent in the past year.

The new net tax levy — the portion of the budget paid by local taxpayers — increased to $22.25 million from $19.75 million in 2002-03. Debt service increased from $2.35 million in 2002-03 to $3.32 million in 2003-04.

Each October, the School Board must adopt the budget, certify the tax levy and establish the tax rate after the Department of Revenue determines property values in the district. Tax bills are sent to property owners in December.

Parent transportation request denied

Citing the impact it would have on the entire district, School Board members voted unanimously to deny a parent’s request to make an exception to the district transportation policy. Lisa Carlton, a parent of a Lannon fourth-grader, asked the School Board to make an exception to a bus transportation policy that requires one pick-up location and one drop-off point. Because Carlton’s son is in shared custody between her and her former husband, she would like the pick-up point to alternate so that her son could be in a supervised setting.

The School Board first heard the request at the Oct. 7 meeting and asked the administration to see if a solution could be found for the family. A district social worker found two daycares that provide transportation to school, but the family decided not to use them.

The recommendation to deny the request came from the Buildings & Grounds and Finance Committee. School Board Member and Committee Chairman Michael Hyland said the committee felt there was no way to make an exception for Carlton’s son without making it for numerous other children in the district. The committee heard from administrators who advised that it should consider the financial implications for increased supervision to monitor children who are assigned to multiple buses and the additional buses needed if children were to be assigned to more than one bus, thereby increase ridership counts.

School Board President Gabe Kolesari expressed safety concerns if the policy changed and the district were responsible to know the locations of students whose pick-up or drop off locations change weekly.

Board gives conceptual OK for expanded Willow play space

School Board members gave conceptual approval to a plan that would have the district construct additional asphalt play space at Willow Spring Learning Center and then lease it to St. James Church for church-function parking when not being used for school. The church would pay the district $10,000 a year and eventually cover the full cost of extending the asphalt play area.

School Board member Gerald Schmitz described the partnership as a win-win situation.

“We will have more playground space for the children at Willow Springs and more parking for St. James,” he said.

Schumann recognized

The School Board recognized the Superintendent’s executive assistant, Marilynn Schumann. In a surprise presentation, Superintendent Kathleen Cooke, Ph.D., described the essential role Schumann plays in the district and her kind, gracious manner in dealing with people. After explaining why Schumann was worthy of receiving the School Board’s recognition, Cooke told Schumann that others would cover her normal task of taking minutes at the meeting and gave her the evening off.

Drivers education fees increase

Beginning in January, the cost for drivers education classes at the high school will increase to $300 for classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction. The district learned from the Department of Public Instruction that state aid for the program would drop by $100 per student. Previously, the cost for both components of the program was $185. The increase covers the loss of state aid, plus an additional $15 increase.

Youth Option Program requests approved

The requests of 10 Hamilton High School students to participate in the Youth Options Program next semester were approved at a cost of approximately $5,000. The program allows students in good academic and disciplinary standing who have completed 10th grade to take technical college or university courses at district expense. The Youth Options Program is available to students throughout the state.

Hamilton Principal David Furrer said that even though the students had applied to take 28 courses for the second semester, experience indicates that not all of them will actually take the courses they list on the application. He said students sometimes list several alternatives in case they are not able to get into their first-choice course.

Personnel matters approved

In personnel matters, the School Board:

  • appointed Jeri Rodriguez as a Hamilton associate kitchen employees, effective Sept. 22;
  • accepted the resignations of Hamilton custodian Ralph Rudolph, effective Oct. 9, and Marcy teacher Suzette Sass, effective Nov. 14;
  • modified the contract of Hamilton Associate Principal and Extended Learning Opportunities Coordinator Candis Mongan from .85 to 1.0 full-time equivalency. During budget discussions last spring, the School Board reduced the position as a precaution against possible budget reductions if a third level of cuts needed to be made. The third level cuts were not necessary.