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BEA School Board passes tax levy

Members receive update on COVID-19 situation in the schools

By Kevin Mertens - Staff Writer | Dec 20, 2020

Alan Wilhelmi provided a review of the 2021 budget and proposed tax levy during the Blue Earth Area School Board meeting on Dec. 14. The proposed levy of $3,008,003 was unanimously passed by the board.

The Blue Earth Area School Board had a number of items to tackle at their Dec. 14 board meeting.

One area the board spent a great deal of time on was the district’s finances.

District financial services coordinator Alan Wilhelmi reviewed the 2021 budget and proposed tax levy for 2021 during the Truth in Taxation public hearing.

CliftonLarsonAllen public accountant Laura Buechnes attended the meeting virtually and reviewed the district’s audit.

“It was a clean audit,” Buechnes reported. “Expenditures and revenue were about the same as the previous year.”

The board then considered a resolution to establish the final property tax levy for 2021.

“The total proposed levy is $3,008,003,” Wilhelmi explained. “The biggest change comes from the passing of the referendum in November which allows us to levy more than the previous years.”

The board proceeded to pass the proposed tax levy on a unanimous vote.

Superintendent Mandy Fletcher then gave her report.

“The COVID numbers in the school are very manageable at this time,” Fletcher said. “It is worth noting we still are not seeing spread inside of the school buildings.”

She reminded everyone the district is using their website to keep people up-to-date on the coronavirus numbers affecting the staff and students.

“We do our best to update the dashboard on our website at least a couple of times per week,” Fletcher commented. “The Incident Command Team will meet again on Dec. 29. We will decide at that meeting what the learning model will be when the students return to school after the Christmas break.”

Fletcher also addressed the mental health of both the students and the teachers.

“It (mental health) is something we are concentrating on. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) is now recommending to keep schools open if it is possible, but we know operating in the COVID environment is tough on both the students and the staff.”

During her report Fletcher also addressed the increase in fees the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) proposed earlier this year.

“The MSHSL proposal originally called for us to make two payments of $3,500 each,” Fletcher explained. “They have now lowered it to two payments of $3,000.”

She reported she has consulted with other schools and the opinion is the increase in fees is still too large.

“The Big South Conference members are holding off paying at this time,” Fletcher remarked. “We are still hoping the League will adopt a more equitable formula for determining future dues.”

Fletcher also emphasized this issue does not affect this school year as those dues have already been paid.

The board also held a lengthy discussion on how COVID has caused problems with some students falling behind in the credits they need for graduation.

“We are going to have to allow for credit recovery and for students to catch up,” Fletcher stated. “Because of that, I would like the board to consider delaying the implementation of the seven-period day by one year.”

She found support for her idea from board members.

“The four-block day appears to make it easier for credit recovery,” board member Stacey Beyer noted.

Other board members chimed in with their opinions.

“Every district is struggling with this issue,” board member Susie Rosenau stated. “I like the opportunities block scheduling allows but I am concerned about larger class sizes.”

The board voted to delay implementing the seven-period schedule for one year.

Staffing was also discussed at the meeting. Ideas such as adding an orchestra teacher, a curriculum director and a dean of students were all debated but it was decided more information was needed before any decisions were made.

The board also handled some personnel decisions at their meeting.

Rayne Hanevik’s resignation as an administrative assistant was approved effective Dec. 31.

The board approved the hiring of Larissa Hatfield and Michele Stindtman as paraprofessionals and Morgan Franklin as a long term substitute. Middle school social studies teacher Bjorn Olson was granted a leave of absence effective Dec. 1.

Before the meeting adjourned, board chairman Susan Benz took time to thank outgoing board member Frankie Bly for 51 years of dedicated service, 30 years of teaching and 21 as a school board member.

In other business:

• The list of coaches for the winter season was approved.

• Approval was also given for the non-certified and certified seniority list.

• The board approved the World’s Best Workforce Summary Report.