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School board adopts $9.95 million budget

Posted 9/19/12 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

More students at the Watford City High School and the Watford City Elementary School means more teachers, more books and more supplies. And with all that new growth, the McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 school board spent the better part of its Sept. 11 meeting putting its financial house in order by increasing its general fund and building fund mill levies, as well as approving the sale of $9,870,000 in lease/revenue bonds to fund the construction of the new elementary school.
“The board approved a $9,995,149.71 budget for the 2012-13 school year,” stated Steve Holen, district superintendent. “Based on our budgeted revenues of $9,692,777.76, that means the district is projecting a deficit budget of $262,371.95 for the school year.”
According to Holen, the new budget is a $1.5 million increase from last year and is directly related to the cost of educating the number of new students enrolled in the district.
The district began the 2012-2013 school year with 888 students, with that number dipping slightly to 871 on Sept. 10.
“Over $1 million of the budget increase is a result of the new students in the district,” stated Holen. “We had to hire six new teachers, purchase more books and supplies, and increase our transportation budget. It is the ripple effect of the 171 new students in our schools.”
As part of it efforts to balance its budget, the school board approved increasing the district’s mill levy by 12 percent. But according to Holen, increasing the mill levy does not necessarily mean that the property owners in the district will see a big increase in their taxes.
“We’re only increasing the amount that is being paid by taxpayers by $170,000,” stated Holen. “Because the taxable valuations in the district have gone up, the increase will be spread between more property owners.”
According to Holen, last year the district’s mill levy was 83.16 mills, but he anticipates that this year the mill levy will be in the upper 60s to the lower 70s.
During Tuesday night’s meeting, the board also approved increasing the district’s building fund mill levy from four to 10 mills to help pay for the new elementary school construction project.
“The four mills were only generating approximately $68,533 per year,” stated Holen. “Based on the increased taxable valuations in the district, we are hoping the 10 mills for the building fund will be able to generate $250,000 to $300,000 per year. We need the building fund to be able to cover one-half of the bond obligations for the new elementary school.”
To pay for the new school construction project, which has a firm price of $11,414,625, the board also approved the sale of $9,870,000 in lease/revenue bonds to Robert Baird & Co. of Milwaukee.
“The interest rate of 2.4034 percent on these 20-year bonds was well below what we were expecting,” stated Holen.
According to Holen, the district’s annual payments on the bonds will be $625,000.
As part of its financing package for the new elementary school construction project, the school board delayed action on selling $1.7 million in HVAC bonds until January of 2013.
“If we stay under $10 million in bond sales in a calendar year, there are some significant advantages in the interest rates,” stated Holen. “We  were advised to wait until after January to sell the remainder of the bonds.”
In other business, the school board:
• Heard from Holen that as a result of increased student numbers, the district would again qualify for the state’s rapid enrollment grant.
• Approved extracurricular staff contracts for David Gumke, assistant cross country coach; Rachel
Dwyer, speech coach; Lindsey Tivis, junior high girls basketball coach; and Dillon Langerud, head girls softball coach.
• Approved hiring Jim Svihovec as the district transportation director  pending his receiving a CDL license.