Small levy increase proposed for collaboration

Published 11:11 am Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Program with Austin would serve severe special education students

A collaboration between the Albert Lea and Austin school districts to help severe special education students would be met with a one-time, 2.2 percent increase in the tax levy for Albert Lea Area Schools taxpayers.

This equates to an $8 tax increase for the owner of a $100,000 home, said Albert Lea Superintendent Mike Funk. The program, if approved, would go into effect for the 2016-17 school year.

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The progress of the plan was presented by Special Services Director Sarah Kloecki with Albert Lea Area Schools Monday evening at the Albert Lea School Board study session.

The increase would last for 15 years to pay the lease levy for the building, which is projected to be at the Corcoran Center in Austin. The building is planned for renovation.

The cooperative would be called Austin-Albert Lea Special Education Cooperative.

The two districts would collaborate to provide specialized services and programs for students in the Setting Four Emotional Behavioral Disorder and Students with Unique Needs programs.

Kloecki said students with unique needs include students with lower cognitive ability and higher behavioral needs.

She said students with emotional behavioral disorder are functioning students who could be violent or self-injurious.

Costs after the startup would come in tuition service based on the amount of Albert Lea students who are served, said Albert Lea Director of Finance and Operations Lori Volz.

Volz said the earliest the board could act would be later this month if they approve a joint powers agreement with the Austin Public Schools District.

She said the cooperative would be of benefit to the district.

“We will be able to provide increased services to students with special needs and at a most affordable manner possible and in a location as close to our district as possible,” Volz said.

The district projected 10 students needing placement in the cooperative.

“The partnership will allow us to provide programming for our students with significant needs that can’t be served in a general education building and setting,” Kloecki said.

Austin school officials said last month the program would benefit four students.

The cooperative’s governing body would include representatives from both school districts.

Plans were scrapped in August for a possible collaboration between Albert Lea, Owatonna, Faribault, Austin and Northfield school districts to make a separate school in Owatonna.

Kloeckl said discussion soon followed between the two districts on the proposed cooperative.

Funk said the increase is virtually the same amount as a proposed decrease for 2016.

Look for more from the Monday meeting in the Wednesday edition.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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