REGIONAL- ISD 2142 school board members meeting at South Ridge School on Tuesday approved an increase in the 2024 pay levy without the aid of customary line-item review by district finance director …
REGIONAL- ISD 2142 school board members meeting at South Ridge School on Tuesday approved an increase in the 2024 pay levy without the aid of customary line-item review by district finance director Kim Johnson, who was not in attendance at the meeting.
In past years, Johnson provided board members with additional information explaining various increases and decreases in net tax capacities for various district functions and obligations, but she was unable to attend Tuesday’s meeting.
However, Superintendent Reggie Engebritson got Johnson on the phone to answer a question posed by board member Chris Koivisto about a 12.2 percent increase over last year in one specific line item, the total referendum market value levy category, a dollar increase from $1,726,004.57 in 2023 to $1,936,702.70 in 2024, a difference of $210,698.13.
“I’m seeing that this is a 12.2 percent jump versus the previous year, and that’s a jump,” Koivisto said.
Johnson said that the increase in that item is due to an increase in the market value of properties in the district of $249 million. With that kind of an increase, the district’s revenue comes more from its tax levy and less from aid, Johnson said.
“That’s exactly what happened,” Johnson said. “What’s causing that is the property values in our district. We have absolutely no control over that at all. There’s nothing we can do about that.”
“So basically, our levy is increasing because the value of the property is increasing, and not necessarily because we’re asking to increase it,” Koivisto said.
“That’s absolutely correct,” Johnson replied. “We were at 83 percent levied last year, and we’re at 96 percent levied this year because that market value has gone up so much.”
Board member Lynn Hilde remarked that when he attended the Minnesota Rural Education Association conference last year that attendees were told to expect something like this to happen over the next three to four years.
However, when the referendum market value levy is factored in with projected increases and decreases in 11 general levy categories, two community service categories, and the levy for debt service, the final outcome is a 4.69 percent increase in the district’s overall pay levy for 2024. Without additional discussion, the board unanimously approved that increase.
Proposed hire rejected
In an unusual departure from the board’s typical practice of approving new hires without discussion, Koivisto asked that the proposed hire of recently retired Northeast Range counselor Joan Kjorsvig-Beans be considered separately from the other proposed teaching staff hires.
Kjorsvig-Beans retired from her counselor position last June, but it was proposed to re-hire her for a four-tenths time counselor position at NER. Koivisto opposed the recommendation.
“I believe that retirement in that position set us up to make some positive shifts to better support our students’ needs in our changing environment,” Koivisto said. “Joan was a valued employee for many, many years, and she retired. I saw this as a great opportunity for us to shift toward some other needs that we have in the counseling area, so hiring her back I don’t think is doing us any good to help support our students with what we need going forward. We need to look at that position differently.”
Koivisto also argued that the reduced time for the position won’t accomplish what’s necessary for student support.
“That point four FTE in counseling is pretty small in a day where counseling needs are only increasing in schools,” he said. “Having that reduced down is also a mistake in supporting our students.”
When Christensen asked for a motion to approve hiring Kjorsvig-Beans, no board member responded, effectively quashing the recommendation.
In other business, the board:
• Heard from South Ridge lead bus driver Jim Nemec about an issue with compensation and procedures related to lost duty days. Nemec also talked to the board about drivers having to transport students beyond those on their assigned routes to cover for a lack of drivers. Board chair Pat Christensen noted that districts across the country are having problems hiring bus drivers. Engebritson invited Nemec and a union representative to meet with her to discuss his concerns, and board member Bob Larson asked that a report be given to the board on what was discussed.
• Approved a revised conflict of interest policy for school board members.
• Held first readings for revised policies regarding annual review of policies and family and medical leave.
• Approved a memorandum of understanding with Arrowhead (AEOA) Head Start.
• Approved the new district strategic plan. Engebritson discussed ways to incorporate regular reporting of strategic plan activities into board meeting agendas for members to be assured that district staff are implementing and following the plan.
• Hired Lizbeth Getman as a part-time music teacher and part-time paraprofessional at Northeast Range.
• Hired Jeremy Deedrick as a full-time special education teacher at North Woods.
• Hired Jasmine Jam as a half-time special education teacher and part-time elementary art teacher at North Woods.
• Hired Amos Kolodji as a full-time math teacher at NER.
• Hired Jacob Rosin as a full-time special education teacher at NER.
• Hired Sarah Flores as a part-time library assistant at Tower-Soudan.
• Hired Ryan Nephew as a part-time paraprofessional at NER.
• Hired Savannah Johnson as a part-time paraprofessional at NER.
• Hired Heather Kapyate as a part-time preschool teaching assistant and part-time ECFE teacher aide at NW.
• Hired Carlie Hadrava and Molly Krueger as a part-time paraprofessionals at NW.
• Hired Michelle Summerland as a part-time van driver at NW.
• Hired Karli Sporich as a full-time Check and Connect mentor and an additional assignment as Little Grizzlies supervisor at NW.
• Hired Adam Hagen as assistant cross country coach at NER.
• Hired Racel Johnson as head cheerleading coach at NW.
• Hired Andreastar Trout as a part-time Little Grizzlies aide at NW.
• Hired Jon Scherf as a part-time fitness center supervisor at NW.
• Accepted retirements/resignations from NER assistant cross country coach Amiah Akerson, T-S teacher aide John Zaitz, NER paraprofessional Shayler Lislegard, and NW assistant girls basketball coach Alli Sandberg.
• Approved voluntary reduction in hours for NER paraprofessional Melissa Schroeter.
• Terminated NER custodian Erik Nilsson.