Monticello School Board explains levy at meeting

The Monticello School District held its annual truth in taxation meeting Monday evening, the state-mandated meeting that gives taxpayers an opportunity to hear detailed information about tax levies and to comment if they choose.
No members of the public attended the meeting, but it wasn’t hard to guess why; a zero percent levy increase doesn’t tend to bring much controversy.
Business Manager Tina Burkholder shared details about where the district’s money comes from and where it goes before getting into the details from the proposed 2014 levy.
She said the school district spends 83 percent of its revenue on general fund expenditures, 81 percent of which is used for salary, wages and employee benefits. The rest of the general fund is made up of purchased services, such as transportation, supplies and materials and capital projects.
The school district’s general fund levy is decreasing seven percent next year mainly because of a new legislative change that converts $212 per pupil of the operating referendum amount to a new Location Equity Revenue category.
This resulted in a decrease of $1,239,000 to the voter-approved referendum but an increase of over $782,000 to the new location equity category. The only other large reduction to the general fund levy comes from a $120,000 reduction to the health and safety funds because the district did not qualify for many state-approved health and safety projects this year.
The debt service fund saw a total increase of nearly $49,000, or 8.25 percent, for the 2014 levy. Burkholder said the voter approved debt service fund is increasing by nearly $400,000 next year because of planned changes made to the payment schedule and refinancing of the building bonds. The additional money will go toward principle and interest on building bonds from the high school construction and 1999 capital improvements. To balance out the higher voter approved debt service fund, the district’s financial planners reduced other debt service funds by nearly $279,000 to keep the levy as even as possible.
“We’re trying to have those bond payments work together where there is a minimal change from year to year,” Burkholder said.
Final levy adoption, including a chance for the public to speak and ask questions, will take place Monday, Dec. 9 at 5 p.m. in the middle school boardroom.
Before the truth in taxation meeting, the board held its regularly scheduled meeting. Highlights included:
• Approved a new contract for superintendent Jim Johnson for 2014-2017. The board was highly complimentary of the job Johnson is doing as the district’s superintendent, with outgoing board member Scott Hill saying Johnson’s hiring was one of the best decisions the school board made in his 12 years on the board.
• The board heard a first quarter budget report from business manager Tina Burkholder.
• Heard a presentation from middle school social studies teachers on how they have incorporated iPads into their curriculum.
• Approved three donations to the district, including $5,000 for the weekend backpack program from the Rotary, an anonymous $1,000 donation to the middle school for students in need and an adapted tricycle for the DAPE program from Kelly and Randy Miller.

Freelancer Meghan Gutzwiller covers education and the Monticello School District.