School board seeks levy renewalPublished 9:50am Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Voters to decide Nov. 5 whether district keeps 7-year additional tax
The Albert Lea school board on Monday decided to ask voters to renew its expiring operational levy.
Voters will go to the polls for the special election at the same time as the Nov. 5 general election; the proposed referendum would last seven years, just like the expiring one has.
Board members also said that due to a change made by the Minnesota Legislature relating to equalization in state money to rural and metro schools, that Albert Lea taxpayers will pay less in taxes starting this fall.
“They’re putting more state aid toward equalization purposes,” Superintendent Mike Funk said. “Taxpayers will see a reduction for the school portion of taxes.”
For a $100,000 home, a taxpayer would owe $43 less than originally planned. The amount this fall would have been $281, so that will drop to $238. The change from the state Legislature went into effect July 1. Funk said he expects taxes to remain neutral the following year.
The school board completed an evaluation of Funk and announced its findings at the Monday meeting. After discussion among the board members and feedback from district administrators, board Chairwoman Linda Laurie said that the board thinks Funk is a strong leader. He was judged in five kinds of leadership including strategic, operational, instructional, political and people; Funk was also judged in how he communicates. Laurie said he consistently focuses on the school board’s goals for the district.
“The board recognizes Dr. Funk’s improvement in his communication style,” Laurie said. “He should continue working on fostering relationships with staff and the community.”
She said the board agreed he is focused on the education of the district’s student and that he is “an incredible asset to our district.” Laurie also mentioned the Monday Tribune story about a new youth apprenticeship program, which was something the board asked Funk to try to do.
“That’s one of those optional, extra things that are going on in our district,” Laurie said. “I feel that Dr. Funk has a huge hand in that.”
In other action the board:
• Heard from Steve Lund, the district’s energy manager, about how much the district has used in energy and saved in costs over the last 10 years. Lund said that with updating equipment, updating buildings and educating employees about energy usage, the district has been able to keep costs lower in some areas and reduce costs in other areas with less usage. Lund said the energy costs per square foot of all the buildings were below or well below national averages.
• Was introduced to new principals. Two new staff additions are Steve Kovach who will be principal at Southwest Middle School and Mike Fugazzi who will be principal at Lakeview Elementary School.
• Heard from new principal Kovach about updates to Southwest’s student handbook. Most of the updates align with policies at the high school, including that no backpacks are allowed in hallways or classrooms. Another policy is that no photos can be taken on any device without permission at the school.
• Learned about a new policy at Albert Lea High School. Funk explained that Activities Director Chris Chalmers is asking the public to use only the commons entrance for all events at the high school. The building was designed so that fans file into the gym and pool areas from the top, and the change also helps keep fans out of the athlete dressing and prep areas. While the pool entrance is used regularly, Funk said walking into the school through the commons doors only adds about 40 yards of walking.