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New Pre-Kindergarten program levels playing field

Thanks to an increase in state funding for early education, the New York Mills School District was able to revamp its preschool program this fall, which equalized the playing field.
The tuition-based Pre-Kindergarten program replaced the tuition-based Junior Kindergarten program and the state-funded Early Learning program that the school offered previously.
About eight years ago, school districts across the state had to re-evaluate their early childhood education programs when the state made funding cuts. At that time, administrators in NY Mills saw the benefits in a preschool program and wanted to continue offering early childhood classes.
However without state funding, the financial burden for Junior Kindergarten fell on parents. Since the state still offered some funding for half-day programs, the school was able to offer a half-day section for parents who could not afford the full day, tuition-based program.
At the end of a school year, children that attended Junior Kindergarten had 100 full days of school, while children attend the Early Learning program had 66 half days, or 33 full days of school. The children that attended these two programs were all the same age and would go on to begin kindergarten together.  read entire story. . . .

Only 6.7 percent live and work in NYM

A recent housing study indicates that building additional moderately priced apartment complexes would allow for more locally employed people to live within the city of New York Mills.
Currently, only 6.7 percent of residents live and work in the city. This is far below neighboring communities of Perham and Wadena. In comparison 17.7 percent of Perham residents live and work in Perham, while 24.1 percent of Wadena residents live and work in Wadena.  
Last Thursday morning, Scott Knudson of Community Partners Research Inc., presented this finding and many others to approximately two dozen community members, including members from area businesses, the Economic Development Authority, the city, the city council and the school.  read entire story. . . .

School’s rainy day fund on the rise

At fiscal year-end (June 30), the New York Mills School District’s rainy day fund showed growth for the fourth consecutive year, though it’s unassigned fund balance is still below the recommended level.  
During the regularly scheduled school board meeting last week, Eide Bailly informed board members that the district has an unassigned fund balance of 10.1 percent. That fund balance would cover a little more than four weeks of expenses, however, school policy said the district should be closer to 12 percent.
The policy states that the district should “strive to maintain a minimum unassigned general fund balance of six weeks of operating expenses.” The unassigned fund has seen continued growth from its low of 3.7 percent in 2011.  
Business Manager Marsha Maki said, “The district has worked diligently to increase the school district fund balance and the audit numbers reflect that. The school district works hard to balance the program funding needs for our students, while also having funds set aside and available for unforeseen expenses.”
Overall, the general fund expenditures in fiscal year 2014 came in less than budgeted and revenues were higher than budgeted. The general fund accounts for all revenue and expenditures of the school district, including educational activities, district instructional and student support programs, expenditures for the superintendent, district administration, normal operations and maintenance, pupil transportation, capital expenditures and legal school district expenditures.  read entire story. . . .

Flat levy for Deer Creek

The Deer Creek City Council will not increase its preliminary tax levy for 2015.
During its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday night, the Deer Creek City Council approved a zero percent preliminary levy increase over its 2014 levy. Though the levy can be lowered when it is finalized in December, it cannot be increased.
Prior to approving the zero percent increase, several council members said they would like to see taxes stay flat if possible in Deer Creek and look at places to cut expenses should the need arise next year.
In addition to approving the preliminary levy, the council approved a new assessment policy in town. According to the new policy, developers will be responsible for 100 percent of improvements to a newly developed property in the city limits. This includes things like hooking up to the water/sewer line, sidewalks and roads.  read entire story. . . .

School bond refunding saves taxpayers money

New York Mills taxpayers will see an even greater tax savings than was predicted at last month’s school board meeting. The $3.4 million in bonds were refunded at rates well below the predicted levels.
In a presentation at the school board meeting last week, Ehlers Financial Advisor Greg Crowe recommended the board accept a 1.9028 percent rate from Raymond James & Associates, Inc. of Florida. This was the lowest of five bids. Following his presentation, the board passed a resolution to sell the bonds as advised.
Ehlers previously predicted the rate to be closer to 2.5 percent. The old bond rates were at 4 percent. Thus refunding to 1.9 percent will give substantial savings directly to taxpayers.
“Over the next 10 years, the projected savings for the district debt service fund is 10.209 percent. Since we levy to pay for our bonds and will need that percentage less, we will not be levying that amount in the next 10 years – approximately $45,000 each year,” said Business Manager Marsha Maki in a follow-up email.
Over the life of the bonds, district taxpayers will see $427,412 of savings.
Although the bond refinancing will decrease property taxes, the local option revenue and board approved referendum that was approved last month will increase property taxes. In other words, the recent bond savings will lower the net change on property taxes, yet most residents will still see an increase.

In other news:
-The board moved to adopt the maximum levy with an increase of 18.6 percent. The general fund increased by 68.58 percent, community service increased by 7.89 percent and debt service levy increased by .32 percent. This is the first time the levy has increased in a number of years. As the preliminary budget numbers are finalized, the school board may lower the levy by the end of December. In an email afterwards, Business Manager Marsha Maki said, “If we do take less than the state authorizes us for, depending on the category we under-levy in, we could lose some state aid.”  read entire story. . . .