School board votes for even-year elections

Mary Bailey
Community Editor

School board elections will move to even years.

On Thursday, June 27, the board voted to postpone this fall’s school board election one year and from now on hold board elections on even years. The vote was unanimous, with members Karen Morehead and Kathy Bystrom absent.

This will save the district from paying the entire cost of an odd-year election. The county picks up most of the cost of even-year elections, when other offices besides school board are on the ballot.

Levies and bonds can still be on odd-year ballots.

There was no discussion before the vote, but Board President Rob Raphael said “I do have a concern that these big statewide elections will obscure the school board election.” He said he trusts the voters will do the work required to become familiar with the school board issues and candidates.

Sports center 

The board also approved selling $3,400,000 in bonds to buy the Forest Lake Area Athletic Association Sports Center.

After holding a public hearing on May 30, the district’s next step in the ice arena process was to approve resolutions for selling abatement bonds to pay for the arena.

The bonds will be sold on Aug. 1 and the proceeds available Aug. 27.

The sports center, built by FLAAA in 2008, has a year-round ice sheet and a fabric-covered field house used as a second ice sheet in the winter months. The high school hockey teams, the Forest Lake Hockey Association and the Cutting Edge Figure Skating Club all use the ice arena.

The school district negotiated with FLAAA to bring the purchase price well below the $5 million “fair market value” and even below the $4.6 million of outstanding debt. The purchase price is $3.3 million. Four local banks will take a loss on the deal.

The vote was unanimous.

2013-2014 budget

Next school year’s budget was also approved by unanimous vote.

The state requires that districts approve a budget for the next school year by June 30. The budget typically is modified in the fall, when actual enrollment numbers are known, and again in the spring.

Enrollment has been dropping every year, but Business Manager Larry Martini said, “We’re no longer expecting a reduction in pupils.”

The total budget is $81,962,682. This includes $68,104,489 for the general fund. Salaries make up 59 percent of general fund expenditures and benefits, 23 percent. The remainder is purchased services, supplies and materials, capital expenditure and interest.

The general fund can also be categorized to show how much is spent directly on services to students, and how much on administration and support services.

Martini said Forest Lake’s 5 percent for administration and 4 percent for support services are below the state average. The amount the district spends on transportation is above average because of the miles of roads.

In addition to the general fund, other budget items are food service, community education, and debt service. Each of these totals about $4 million.

The air quality upgrade at the high school, a state-approved health and safety project, is budgeted at $1.5 million for this school year.

The remaining item, $632,100, is the principal and interest to repay $6 million in bonds sold a few years ago to fund OPEB (other post-employment benefits) such as medical premiums paid for some retirees. Martini said most district employees do not receive this retirement benefit. “You have been very fiscally restrained,” he told the board.

The board also certified the school district population at 46,248, which is 324 more than last year.

The number is used by the state in revenue calculation for community education.