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School board approves proposed 1.17% levy increase

The Albert Lea Area Schools board on Monday approved a proposed 1.17% levy increase. 

Jennifer Walsh, executive director of finance and operations for the district, said the proposed levy equates to an increase of $105,000. 

Walsh said the increase is primarily due to a shift in the state aid and levy portion of the district’s revenues.

About 11% of the district’s budget comes from the levy, while about 80% comes from state aid. 

She said because of increased tax base throughout the district, she would expect there to be minimal to no property tax increase on a home valued at $100,000 provided the home’s value stays the same. 

Walsh showed a graph to the board that showed the school portion of property taxes for a $100,000 home since 2014. Taxes were $427 a year in 2014 and $435 in 2020.

In other action, the board: 

  • Approved seven goals for the district for the 2020-21 school year. 

The goals were as follows:

– Prepare district to provide a quality education through the Pathways to Success program for students in a pandemic environment

– Ensure systems are in place to provide a safe environment for students and staff.

– Focus staff development on cultural competence and trauma responsiveness.

– Buildings achieve Level 2 certification in High Reliability Schools: Effective Teaching in Every Classroom.

– Pass an operating levy to maintain district operations.

– Maintain a 12% fund balance.

– Work with the board to build a cohesive team to lead the district. 

The board had some discussion about whether to include a specific goal for graduation rates but ultimately decided to incorporate the Pathways to Success program into the first goal. Within the program, there are goals for graduation rates. 

The board planned to amend the Pathways to Success goals at a future meeting to include both four-year and six-year graduation rate goals. 

School board member Jill Marin said she thought it was important to have the graduation rate goal included for accountability for the board and superintendent.

Member Angie Hanson talked about the importance of having separate goals both for the students who graduate in four years and for the students who may take five or six years. 

  • Witnessed the swearing-in of junior Esther Yoon as a student school board member.
  • Approved five-year property tax abatements for new homes to be built at 1714 Keystone Drive and 1814 Hale Drive.