Positive financial news for MPS

MARSHALL – Jodie Zesbaugh, a financial advisor for Ehlers, delivered good news for the Marshall School District at the work session meeting Monday night.

Zesbaugh began by noting that taxpayers in the district will be seeing the benefits regarding the refunding of the existing bond issue about a year ago. The savings amounts to approximately $285,000 and will continue for a number of years, she said.

“That is great news,” Zesbaugh said. “It’s very exciting.”

Zesbaugh said the district will also see positive adjustments because of state legislative changes.

“The 2013 state Legislature gave us some good news related to operating referendums,” she said.

An operating referendum is an election ballot question that allows districts to generate additional general education revenue.

“Revenue is provided through a combination of local property tax levies and for more districts, state aid,” Zesbaugh said. “Referendum revenue may be used for any operating or capital expenses, the same as basic general education revenue.”

Currently, MPS has an operating referendum of $675, which was approved in 2011, has been effective since the 2013-14 school year and will continue through the 2017-18 school year, MPS Business Director Bruce Lamprecht said.

The 2013 legislation made significant changes to the referendum revenue, which will be effective for fiscal year 2015. The new pupil count will be measured by adjusted pupil units (APU) instead of resident marginal cost pupil units (RMCPU).

“With the new conversion, the $675 amount no longer exists,” Zesbaugh said. “Going forward, it’s converted over to a new formula and will qualify for $690.04. Some people have operating referendum levies that are going up and some are going down. It all depends on your open enrollment adjustment.”

The district also qualifies for state equalization aid, which is dependent on the district’s referendum market value per pupil. In addition, the district also qualifies for location equity revenue (LER), which amounts to $212.

“This does reduce your voter approved authority and the district can opt out and then you would not receive that amount,” Zesbaugh said. “But we recommend that you don’t opt out. In your case, you’d get more state equalization, your property taxpayers get some more relief and you’re eligible for more equity revenue.”

MPS would have to take specific action to opt out by September 1, but Lamprecht doesn’t believe that is the best option for the district either.

“We’re not going to opt out,” he said. “At this point in time, there’s no reason why we’d do that. By not opting out, we’re actually going to get more equity revenue from the state. It’s about $25,000 more.”

While seeing saving in the near future, taxpayers in the district will likely be asked for additional support as well.

A second operating referendum is being considered to assist with safety and security projects, deferred maintenance and technology needs in the district.

Administration has until August 23 to make notifications of its intentions to do so if that decision is made to go forward with a vote in the fall.

“People will know if we’re going forward or not at our next meeting,” Lamprecht said. “If the board and the administration decide to go forward, the length of the new referendum will probably coincide with the one currently in place, which expires after the 2017-18 school year. If we would go out for a referendum, we’d have to decide the amount and what the specific purpose is for.”

One of the advantages of an operating referendum is that almost everybody pays the same amount, Zesbaugh said.

“When you’re voting on a bond referendum, your commercial tax payers will pay a little bit more than your homeowners,” she said. “But in this case, the seasonal recreational property owners won’t pay anything, the ag property tax owners will pay only on their house, garage and one acre. So it’s a little more equal on your tax payers than other types of levies.”

Superintendent Klint Willert noted that there were many big decisions that would have to be made in the near future.

“What you may see is a resolution that will come forward,” he said. “If you choose to not go forward with our voters at this time, then you can vote the resolution down or you can decide to pass it.”

Along with a presentation from Taher Food representatives Mark Broderson and Lori Fruin, the board also heard an update about ESL (English as a Second Language) programming from Vickie Radloff. While the program has made positive strides in the six years that she has been there, Radloff said, it’s the kids who have excelled.

“Almost all of our kids made the honor roll the last quarter, which is a testament to our program and our school,” she said. “And of the seniors this past year, we have 13 who are going to college.”

Radloff thanked the administration and board members for listening to the ESL staff regarding student and staff needs.

Board chairman Jeff Chapman also shared his appreciation of the program with Radloff.

“You do a great job,” he said. “We’re up here making decisions about this and that and looking at the budget, but everything is really about the students. It’s amazing if you look at where the program was six years ago and where it is now. It’s a dream come true.”