Maximizing the levy in September is a typical move for the School Board, allowing the county to start preparing 2014 taxes. However, Superintendent Dave Marlette indicated that the hope is to not maximize the final levy, which is set in December at the annual truth-in-taxation meeting.
Marlette and the school board have expressed a desire to use new state money the district will be receiving this year to offset some levies that are typically 100 percent locally funded. A complicated new state program called Location Equity will likely slightly lower the amount Watertown-Mayer district residents pay for the district’s operating levy next year, and the $314,000 in additional revenue that program generates for the school district will likely be used to lower the burden for area residents on other portions of the levy as well.
Normally, items like health and safety, safe schools and deferred maintenance are 100 percent funded by local levies, with no contributions from the state. But by paying for these programs with the additional revenue the district is receiving from the state, it is essentially shifting some of the burden from local taxpayers to the state, and allowing the district to not maximize the levy when the final one is set in December.
“This is not set in stone,” Marlette said of the preliminary levy that the board passed last week. “It is our hope that in December we’ll be able to take some of the additional dollars we’ll be getting and take away some of those 100 percent local levies.”
In other business:
• The Board approved a policy for student observations by non-school personnel. Marlette said the district often gets requests to have students evaluated by outside personnel, and the new policy gives those professionals guidelines to operate under.
• The Board approved a contract with Mid-Minnesota Hot Mix, Inc., to pave the Primary School Parking lot at a total cost of $84,180, with half to be paid upon completion of the work and half to be paid by August 2014. The work was completed last week.
• High School principal Bob Hennen reported to the school board that ACT scores in 2012-13 were up more than a full point from the year before. The 81 seniors who took the college-entrance exam last year averaged a score of 22.1, which is one-tenth of a point below the state average of 22.2. The year before, Watertown-Mayer students scored an average of 21.0, below the state average of 22.1 that year.
“Our ACT results were positive,” Hennen told the School Board. “Another thing the ACT measures is college readiness based on the scores. The national average of seniors that took it that were college ready was 23 percent, and we were at 37 percent. So there are some positive things with our testing.”
• Middle School principal Nick Guertin said he is pleased thus far with the transition from a six-period schedule to a block schedule this school year.
“I’m feeling really good about it so far,” Guertin said. “Overall, I’m sure it will take time, but I think it’s been a smooth transition.”
With longer class periods designed to allow more time for hands-on student work, projects and collaboration, Guertin said there would be a large focus this year on staff development, helping teachers maximize their roughly 80 minute periods when they were accustomed to teaching much shorter periods in the past.
“The focus is going to make sure (our teachers) aren’t lecturing for 80 minutes,” Guertin said. “It’s focusing on having the kids doing more things rather than having the teachers constantly standing in front of the class and driving home instruction. … Kids remember things they do, but they forget most of what they hear somebody talk about.”
Contact Matt Bunke at firstname.lastname@example.org