Gilman administrator says district’s taxpayers will pay about the same this year
Taxpayers in the Gilman School District will see property taxes remain about the same as last year as the school levy increases slightly.
At Monday’s school board meeting, board members formally adopted the 2020-2021 school district budget with a $7.1 million overall budget. The local levy if $2,779,974.
According to district administrator Wally Leipart, the district saw a $36,000 decrease in state aid due to declining enrollment. Overall the levy is up about $60,520 from last year. However, this was matched by an increase in equalized value of the district with property values increasing. The net is for the tax rate to drop 6 cents from $10.72 per $1,000 of equalized value to $10.66 per $1,000 of equalized value.
“Relatively speaking, property taxes are going to look the same,” Leipart said, noting that the rate is decreasing but the value of people’s property is increasing. Gilman School Board sets tax levy, looks ahead to enrollment issues
The school taxes are just one part of the overall property taxes for the district with the final tax bill including the municipality, county and technical college. Leipart noted that because property taxes are set on the assessed values of each municipality, some people may see larger changes than others.
Change is coming for the Gilman School District, especially at the high school level, as the board will need to begin planning on how to handle longterm declining enrollment. As part of that discussion board members will need to decide staffing, how classes will be delivered and what things will look like.
Leipart reported on the third Friday enrollment count. The district has an enrollment of 273 students. Based on population projections, that enrollment is projected to drop to around 226 students by the 2024-2025 school years.
“We are seeing smaller classes entering the district than exiting,” he said. There are good sized classrooms of students per grade at the elementary level. It is when you get into high school level where there is not just one class per grade that things get challenging.
“We have to start looking at this,” Leipart said, noting there will not just be one thing the district will need to do to address the issue, but that it will take modifications in the way the district provides opportunities for students.
Leipart said the discussion on this needs to begin sooner rather than later. He noted that in about a year and a half the district will need to begin planning for a referendum and will need to have a realistic plan to present to voters.
He said, while the board needs to discuss the issue, it also has plenty of time if they start now and cautioned that there was no reason to get anxious at this point.
In other business, board members:
_ Reported the district had advanced to a moderate level due to COVID- 19 cases being within the 5% to 10% range. The district will move into high risk if rates climb above 10%. Eight staff members, including Leipart and principal Jon Hess, have been out on quarantine due to contact tracing exposure and are due to return to the building this week. The increase in cases has resulted in additional guidelines such as limiting the number of people in any office space or meeting and requiring meetings scheduled to be over 20 minutes in length to be done electronically. Leipart described the COVID-19 response plan as being a living document and that they will need to adjust to meet circumstances.
_ Approved renewing a one year line of credit with Superior Choice Credit Union for $300,000 at 3.5% interest. This short term borrowing is used for cash flow between when state aid and tax revenue payments are disbursed.
_ Opened the door to discussion on how to handle college credit programs. State law says districts must allow up to 18 credits of college programs. However, Leipart said they are potentially seeing Gilman students graduating high school with up to 30 college credits paid for by the district. Leipart said with a growing number of programs allowing college or technical school credits the board will need to decide on a direction to follow. “I am not saying that is bad, but it is something we all need to be on the same page on,” he said, noting there could be budget impacts in the future.
He said while in the past it was seniors who were in these programs, it has expanded to include junior and even sophomores taking college level classes for credit.
_ Accepted the resignation of board member Matt Chaplinksi. He resigned from the board due to moving out of the district for work reasons. In a letter to the board he praised the board saying, “It has been a privilege to serve with this team.” Leipart will research options for filling the spot with the board to decide if they want to appoint someone or wait until the election in April.