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Colby mil rate drops, taxes similar for district residents

The Colby school board approved both their 2022-23 budget and the corresponding tax levy rates, lowering the mil rate to help keep taxes stable. The overall net expenditures budget between all funds dropped 3.83% from the previous school year’s budget and the proposed property tax level saw the mil rate drop from 8.04 to 7.04. The board approved the property tax levy of $3,329,877, which was a 3.12% decrease from the 2021-22 school year’s levy of $3,437,153.

While the overall expenditures for the district fell from $18,717,898.51 in 2021-22 to a budgeted $18,001,575.00 for the 2022-23 school year, there was an increase in the general fund’s overall expenditures. This was offset by an increase in revenue from federal and state sources, allowing for the general fund balance to come out even at $15,056,123 in both revenue and expenditures. This was higher than the $13,720,194.50 in expenditures for the general fund seen for the 2021-2022 school year.

After approving the overall budget for the district, the board then approved to set the tax levy levels for local property taxes. As described before, this saw an overall decrease, with the Fund 10, or general fund, levy dropping from $1,784,165 to $1,178,389 and largely contributing to that decrease. While this could lead to a drop in property tax for those within the district, it does not necessarily mean that property taxes will drop as a whole.

“Our valuation went up about 10.5 percent,” superintendent Dr. Steven Kolden said in explanation to the board. “We are dropping our mil rate over one, which is going to be just over 10 percent, so taxes should remain pretty stable. However, different townships have different valuations, so as townships reassess value, sometimes the city value will go up a little higher, which may actually raise taxes. If their property value goes up more than the mil rate, they could see their total dollars still go up.”

Ultimately, the move was largely made to keep taxes as stable as possible while taking into account the rising property values.

Calendar change

The school board also examined and approved two drafts of the 2023-24 school calendar, which are to be sent out to staff and community members for feedback. Through a survey of these two groups, the board is hoping to find which schedule is better received and use that as part of their decision as to which is adopted.

One proposed calendar is essentially rolling over the same calendar that has been used in recent years, which sees the district starting classes on Sept. 1 and ending on June 4, with senior graduation set for May 24.

The second proposed calendar would change the start and end dates for the school year, as well as remove two miscellaneous days off in February and March which were set aside in case the district needed to use them as snow makeup days. In this proposed calendar, the year is set to start on Aug. 28, adding four additional days to the beginning of the school year, but end May 24, taking six days off the end of the calendar and finishing before Memorial Day. Senior graduation would also be moved up a week, with a proposed date of May 17.

“The first two days we would run as summer school,” Kolden said of the second option. “Our first day of school traditionally is orientation, bringing kids in, taking pictures. The second day is traditionally organizing, running through schedules. The high school ran a fast-forward schedule and did their clubs and activities in the afternoon, which would be the motivator to get our students here. Then we would start official classes on the 30th.”

When getting input from the staff and community, it was decided that sending out these two options as part of a survey and asking them to pick one or the other would be the best option moving forward, as narrowing the options for now will help get the calendar out on time.

“I do think it’s an ‘A’ or ‘B’ option for next year,” school board member David Decker said. “If someone has any suggestions, I would welcome them for the future, but I do think at this point we have to stick with one or the other.”

These surveys will be going out soon, as the hope is to have the calendar decided and ready by December, as it is typically done.

n In the superintendent’s report, the numbers for enrollment for the start of the 2022-23 school year were presented to the board. The pupil count for September 2022 was 928, which was down from 937 in January of this year and the 954 recorded in September of 2021. The district also saw a large increase in students leaving the district via open enrollment, with 186 students leaving compared to 115 coming into the district. The net difference of 71 students is the largest the district has seen and it will end up costing a net total of $574,260. Open enrollment has steadily increased over the last decade and a half, with only 34 students entering the district and 56 leaving it during the 2008-2009 school year.

n The board approved the addition of a keypad on the main doors to both the middle school and the high school that would allow those with a code to keep the doors unlocked during certain set times of the day.

An example of this in use was given, stating that it would allow coaches to keep the doors open while athletes file in for practices instead of having to wait by the doors to let the students in. Given the way the system is now, sometimes the doors would be propped open and then forgotten, leaving them open over the entire weekend. The quote for this project was $5,294.93.

n The long range facilities plan was updated to include a retrofit/remodel of the high school LMC as well as an eventual upgrade to the theater screen. The board also approved the purchase of a new school van, which is set to replace an old van, the price of which is not to exceed $41,000. They also approved a change to increase the amount on the long range facility plan dedicated to the cycling out of the school vans, given that the rising cost of vehicles has left the prior amount significantly short.