homepage logo

USC receives good financial report

Bond refinancing will save district $1,231,000 over 10-year period

By Kevin Mertens - Staff Writer | Dec 20, 2020

United South Central School Board members and staff listened as the USC finance director, Stacie Whiteside, reviewed the district’s budget and the 2021 levy proposal. Board members approved the levy for 2021 which was set at $3,672,245, by a unanimous vote.

The United South Central School Board received some good news on the financial front when they held their last regularly scheduled meeting of the 2020 calendar year on Tuesday night, Dec. 15.

The refinancing of General Obligation Bonds will result in a gross savings of $1,231,000 over a 10-year period, a savings of approximately $122,000 each year. The true interest rates on the bonds is 1.456 percent and will result in lowering the tax rate beginning in 2022, according to information provided at the meeting.

“The district received an A1 rating from Moody’s Investors Service,” Michael Hart, of PMA Securities, told the board. “Part of the reason mentioned for the good rating was the strong support the district receives from the community, which was evidenced by the renewal of the referendum in November.”

In other financial matters, the board also held the Truth in Taxation public meeting. USC finance manager Stacie Whiteside gave a summary of the 2020-2021 budget and discussed the proposed property tax levy for 2021.

“I want to remind everyone the revenue formulas are set by the State Legislature except for voter approved referendums,” Whiteside said. “An increase in local taxes does not necessarily mean an increase in revenues for the district.”

During the review of the budget, she explained where the school gets its revenue.

“We receive 79.9 percent of our money from State Aid, 13.7 percent from local taxes (levy), 3.9 percent from Federal Aid and 2.5 percent from other local sources,” she commented. “When it comes to the General Fund expenditures, 78 percent of the budget goes towards salaries and wages and employee benefits, 11.8 percent is spent on purchased services, 6.4 percent on supplies and materials, 1.4 percent on capital expenditures and 2.2 percent on other expenses.”

Whiteside then reviewed the final levy numbers.

“The levy is the sum of four different numbers. The General Fund portion is $1,476,174 and includes the referendum dollars, the Community Service portion is $85,990, the Debt Service is 1,970,845 and the Other Postemployment Benefits (OPEB) Debt Service is $139,236,” Whiteside explained. “This brings the proposed tax levy to be collected in 2021 to a total of $3,672,245.”

A resolution adapting the proposed 2021 levy was passed by a unanimous vote.

The other major topic for the night dealt with deciding on what learning model USC students would be in after the first of the year and on what date would any changes take place.

Kara Christianson, a member of the USC staff, voiced her concerns with bringing the kids back into the school building.

“If you look at the current COVID-19 case rate in the county, it is too high to return to in-person learning,” Christianson said. “The teachers want to return but we feel it is not safe. It is a scary situation. Do we want to be part of the solution or part of the problem?”

A question was raised about the ability to staff the elementary grades.

“We currently are able to staff the elementary grades,” superintendent Keith Fleming answered. “We have not seen any transmission within the school.”

Some board members expressed their concerns saying the elementary students had been out of the classroom for a long time and there was concern about their learning progress.

“But keep in mind we have a lot of staff members who are considered high-risk,” board member Diana Brooks said. “My concern is for them also.”

The board passed a motion which calls for students in pre-K through fourth grades to return to in-person learning on Jan. 4 and for students in grades 5-12 to be in the hybrid model beginning on Jan. 4. The board will review their decision at the January board meeting.

In personnel matters, the board approved the maternity leave request without pay for Emma Olson to take effect on Feb. 6, 2021 for 12 weeks. The board also approved extra service agreements for Emily Allard for middle school basketball; Dan Dylla for head wrestling coach; Dustin Dylla for assistant wrestling coach; Dale Koestler for head girls basketball coach; Margo Latusek for middle school girls basketball coach; Adam Rajtar for middle school boys basketball coach.

High school principal Julie Stauber was on hand to giver her report and announced Lydia Niebuhr had been named the December Renaissance Student of the Month.

The board also set the meeting times for the 2021 School Board meetings. The board will meet the third Tuesday of each month with the meeting starting at 5:30 p.m. January through May and September through November. The meeting times for June, July and August will be 7 p.m. and December’s meeting will begin at 6 p.m.

Chairman Dale Stevermer and Fleming took time to thank outgoing board member Brooks for her contributions as a board member.

“I appreciated your insight and I want to thank you for your service,” Stevermer said.

Brooks also took time to share her final thoughts.

“I want to thank the community for trusting me to serve on the board. It was truly an honor,” she commented. “There was a huge learning curve for me when I started. I feel being a board member is one of the most important ways people can serve so I was honored to have had the opportunity.”