The Rush City School Board held a Truth in Taxation public hearing for the fiscal-year 2021 budget and proposed property taxes on Dec. 17, following a brief pause from its regular meeting.

Details of the fiscal year 2021

Todd Netzke, of School Management Services, said the state Legislature has determined that the General Education Formula Allowance between 2003 and 2021 for the district reflects funding that has not kept up with inflation by $639 per-pupil.

“You can see the revenues, in the blue line, on the chart have stayed relatively flat,” Netzke said. “State aid, in yellow, has gone down. And the red line, which is the levy, has gone up, and that’s primarily due to operating referendum and things like that for local districts to continue to offer. … So essentially, it’s been picked up by the local taxpayer.”

Netzke explained the details included in the budget for the year 2020-2021 as follows:

• General fund revenue at $10,384,111, and $10,317,199 in expenses.

• Community education revenue at $501,806, and $472,462 in expenses.

• General debt service revenue at $1,470,353, and $1,442,090 in expenses.

Netzke said that the total budget revenue was $12,356,270, of which $12,231,751 was in expenses — yielding a net gain of $124,519.

Interim Superintendent Brent Stavig said he’s thankful for the community helping to pass a referendum a few years ago, which has kept class sizes small and some programs from being cut.

“Our Business Education program was able to be restored at the high school,” Stavig said. “And our Family and Consumer Science program have been restored.”

Ensuring student success

With the full distance learning model, the district anticipates some students to be behind in their learning, Stavig said. The district is looking at ways to address such an issue if it does arise, he said.

“We’re already thinking about, ‘do we need to provide more remedial services to get kids caught up’ and stuff like that,” Stavig said. “We don’t know what all of the needs are yet. We’re monitoring and evaluating student achievement data and trying to get a good picture of where we’re at and what we’re going to need to do.”

Communication during COVID-19 pandemic

Stavig said that communication and transparency between school administrators, board members, students and the community is of great importance. An open community forum has been organized to facilitate such communication, though it will mostly involve administrators having a discussion, he said.

“The wider community is able to join in our community, as long as they’re respectful,” Stavig said. “It’s just a literally open forum to just open additional lines of communication with the community members.”

Such an open forum can help with the dissemination of knowledge from parents whose kids are in the distance learning mode to the school administrators and board members, Stavig said.

The hourlong community forum is planned to happen on the third Thursday of each month starting at 3 p.m. The Zoom link for the forum will be posted on the main page of the district’s website, Stavig said.

“I hope that we learn more about the experiences of families and the community, just by demonstrating that we’re listening to them and they’re being heard,” he said. “I hope that it builds upon the quality relationship and trust that already exists between our school district and our community.”

Superintendency

With a 6-0 vote, the school board has decided to begin the process of contract negotiations and make Stavig the acting superintendent of Rush City Schools, Chairperson Stefanie Folkema said.

“The board determined that Stavig has been highly effective in fulfilling the job duties outlined in Board Policy #307 Power and Duties of the Superintendent,” Folkema said. “He has also made substantial progress on his 2020-2021 goals.

“The board has found his overall performance to be highly effective,” she continued. “Despite the unprecedented times the Rush City School District is facing, Stavig has excelled in handling his job duties. The school board is confident the district will keep moving in the right direction under Stavig’s leadership.”

Stavig said that this was exciting news and he’s thrilled to serve the community.

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