NEW ULM - District 88 will ask voters for a 10-year school tax levy referendum of $575 per pupil unit in the November election, a figure that would provide nearly $1.3 million in revenue for the district.
The District 88 Board of Education approved the figure after a period of pondering what the "magic number" might be, a figure that would be acceptable to tax-weary district voters, but still provide enough revenue to staunch the bleeding in the district's budgets.
The board agreed there is a need for more revenue.
"It strikes me as not a good year for a referendum, but we have been bleeding for so long, our programs have suffered such horrendous cuts, that I'm afraid the bleeding will turn into hemorrhaging," said board member Susan Nierengarten. "We have to do right by our kids. Since it doesn't appear the state is going to come through with more money, we have to turn to our community."
After failing on a $725 per pupil referendum last year, the board originally considered a figure of $450 per pupil, which would provide about $1 million in revenue but still leave the district with the need to cut budget, according to Superintendent Harold Remme. But members of the audience encouraged the board to aim higher.
Tracy Vranich told the board she has been talking with a lot of people who feel the district needs to pass a question, and are willing to work and plan a campaign. She said the support is out there for passing a referendum, and she encouraged the board to ask for what it would need to avoid making more cuts.
Tim Knaak told the board there is a group of business leaders in town who are concerned about what is happening to the community as a result of school cuts, and are ready to work to support a higher levy. Knaak said he participated in the New Ulm Chamber's "Grow Minnesota" program, interviewing local businesses, and he said the education situation was a top concern for all of them.
Board members threw around several figures, from the $725 they felt the district needed last year, to $500, to somewhere in between.
Nierengarten said she would hate to have all the work in support of the referendum count for nothing if the referendum failed.
In the end, board member Steven Gag proposed the $575 figure, which gained the support of the rest of the board. Board members Patti Hoffman and Don Deslauriers were not present.
In other business, the board agreed to reject all bids for the sale of the District Administrative Center, and authorized Remme to negotiate a purchase contract with one of the bidders, Eagle Development. Eagle was the highest of the bidders, at $100,000. Like the other bidders, Eagle indicated it wants to convert the school portion of the building to senior apartments, and would allow the district to lease the DAC auditorium for $1 a year.
Remme said the negotiations will probably take several months to work out.
Susan Nierengarten gave the board a positive report from last week's mediation session with the teachers union. Nierengarten said a tentative agreement was reached for the 2011-2013 contract period, and for the 2013-15 biennium as well. The New Ulm Education Association is presenting the agreement to its members for approval. If they agree, the proposal should be ready for the board to consider at its August meeting.
The board approved a contract with Matrix Communications, Inc. of Plymouth to install a new LAN and wireless LAN computer network in the district's schools. Matrix was the low bidder out of seven bidders. The contract will be for $74,469 for the LAN installation, and $65,455 for the wireless installation. The district rejected its bid for cable infrastructure installation, and will use school employees and local cable contractors, at a cost of about $40,000, a $26,000 savings over Matrix's bid. With contingency allowances, the grand total for the project would be about $193,916, and will be completed by December.
Filing will open Tuesday, July 31, for candidates for the school board election. The terms of Carol Ackerson, Patti Gramentz, Patti Hoffman and Susan Nierengarten are up this year. The filing period will continue until Aug. 14.