Rib Lake School District tax rate lowest in a decade
BY DONALD WATSON
The electorate approved a $2.37 million tax levy at the Rib Lake School District’s budget hearing and annual meeting on Monday night.
District administrator Rick Cardey gave a report on the district and reviewed the proposed 2019-2020 budget. He discussed the district’s five core values which place students as the top priority; support a strong staff commitment to excellence; value strong community/ school partnerships; fosters next generation skills in communication, critical thinking, collaboration and creativity; and strive to provide effective, well-maintained and safe facilities and equipment.
“I think our core values, even though they’re a few years old, still drives what we do and are still pertinent today,” Cardey said.
He also highlighted some of the academic accomplishments of the district, noting last fall the district was rated as exceeding expectations and that the elementary school earned a Department of Public Instruction (DPI) School of Promise Award for being a high growth school. Cardey said the elementary school had the highest math score out of 52 schools in CESA (Cooperative Educational Service Agencies) 9 and Rib Lake High School was third in ACT scores out of 22 high schools in CESA 9. He said 44 percent of Rib Lake students graduate with a grade point average of 3.5 or above.
Cardey discussed some of the maintenance projects being done as part of the referendum. The budget includes funding to replace a roof section with the goal of replacing a section each year. Sections of sidewalks and parking lots have been put on rotational maintenance, which he said if the district lets them go, they are big ticket items down the road. The district is working with contractors to ensure the digital controls and boilers are maintained properly and operating at peek efficiency to save the district money. Cardey said they are also in the process of replacing a 39-year-old generator at the middle school.
The proposed budget is $5,985,182, up slightly from last year’s budget of $5,826,822. The mill rate will be $8.44 per $1,000 of equalized value, the lowest level in 10 years, and down from last year’s rate of $8.63 and the 2017-2018 rate of $9.76. Cardey attributed the drop in the tax levy over the past several years to the debt on the elementary school building being retired at the end of the 2017-2018 school year and additional state aid. But he said the biggest reason for the drop this year was a 5.5 percent increase in property valuation, which absorbed any increase the district had in Fund 10 expenses. Property values increased by $16,839,764 to $281,906,049.
The $2,369,422 levy passed by the the voters included $1,790,413 for general expenses (Fund 10); $556,509 for debt service payments ($36,609 for non-referendum debt and $519,900 for referendum debt) and $22,500 for community service projects (Fund 80). Some of the community projects include purchasing equipment and maintaining the fitness center at the high school; funding for the senior tax exchange program (STEP); and making improvements to the hockey rink, fitness trail and the baseball and softball fields.
When Cardey finished reviewing the budget, Scott Everson asked about the revenue from the timber sale in the school forest which wasn’t reflected in the budget summary. Cardey said the revenue goes into a separate account which is part of Fund 10. He said the money is dedicated to activities only related to the school forest, such as improving paths or building walkways in the forest or putting together a project involving the school forest. Cardey added the school board granted an extension to the logging company to complete the project due to the wet weather this fall.
Following the budget hearing, the board held a special meeting and formally approved the tax levy passed by the voters.