By Enterprise staff
The Kittson Central School Board approved its final 2023-24 budget and 2024 property tax levy during the regular meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 20.
After holding the Truth in Taxation hearing, for which one person from the public was present, the board approved a 9.14 percent increase to the district’s tax levy. For taxes payable in 2024, the district will levy $1,481,117.37. That is a $110,418.54 increase over 2023.
“It varies from year to year,” said Superintendent Bob Jaszczak. “Last year we were between 4 and 5 percent. We have a few more kids and there were changes in the Legislature – that’s where we end up with a little bigger increase this year.”
The board certified the levy, which includes $1.01 million in general funds, $37,554.47 in community service and $432,567.40 in general debt service.
The board also approved its final budget for the academic year, but with the caveat that there will be some changes in February or March.
“We used the preliminary budget we had since last spring,” Jaszczak said. “And we’ll continue to work through some things that are up in the air with the state, and where we’re at with negotiations.”
Jaszczak said it’s not uncommon for a board to set a budget and then tweak it a little later on.
The budget approved last week totaled $5,803,910 in expenditures, with revenues coming in at $5,369,631.
“Do I expect we’ll end up at a negative $400,000? I don’t,” Jaszczak said. “We’ll get it further nailed down and then we can update it at a later time.”
Cell phone policy
The board took another run at revising the district’s student cell phone policy and approved a first reading of a revised policy. Jaszczak recommended the students’ cell phones remain in their lockers during the school day. They can check phones between classes or at the noon hour, but cannot have them in the hallways or during class.
For the first violation, a student’s phone will be in the office for five days during the school day. They’ll get it back at the end of the day each day, but can’t check the phone during breaks.
A second violation would be the same stipulations, but for 10 days.
“If they haven’t figured it out after that, then it’s an additional five days thereafter,” Jaszczak said.
The current policy is if students bring phones to class, they must place them in a pouch at the front of the classroom.
Board member Crisa Mortenson asked whether parents will be notified of violations. Jaszczak said yes, any time a student has any kind of violation, parents are notified.
“So, if they need their kids, they need to call the office,” Mortenson said, to which Jaszczak replied in the affirmative.
Board member Amanda Pinnock asked if a clause would be included regarding damage to the phone, should that occur. Board member Teal Plaine suggested a student could sign something at the end of the day stating the phone is not damaged.
“What are we hoping to accomplish with this?” asked board member Mark Johnson.
“First off, it does eliminate teachers having to monitor things. If there’s a kid that’s got a phone, it’s really simple – they can say, ‘You can’t have your phone here. Bring it to the office,’” Jaszczak said.
Johnson argued the current policy already handles that situation, but Jaszczak countered that students aren’t following that policy. Jaszczak added the new policy is more straightforward and won’t require individual teachers to enforce it. He said the teaching staff was heavily involved in crafting the drafted policy he presented during the meeting.
“Have the teachers said why they haven’t been following it?” Pinnock asked about the current policy.
“Because kids wear you out. That’s really why,” Jaszczak said.
He added that the change in where phones are located – in lockers instead of pouches in the classroom – eliminates teachers’ responsibility for monitoring cell phone use.
Johnson asked what the benefit is of changing the policy. Board members suggested AI is a concern, less use of cell phones in the hallways between classes would be better for socialization and reducing teachers’ stress by keeping the phones out of classrooms.
Johnson argued the policy change wouldn’t change student behavior regarding phones, despite the policy’s clarity.
“I don’t believe everyone’s going to enforce it the same way. If you don’t have a policy enforced the same way, it does jack s—,” Johnson said.
In other business, the board:
• Heard public input from Kenny Urbaniak, of Kennedy, who asked about the designated polling places for special elections, which the board approved back in October. He asked why residents can’t just vote by mail, since everyone in the district does anyway, except residents of Hallock. Jaszczak reminded Urbaniak the school district is required by law to establish at least one combined polling place. In checking with the Minnesota School Board Association, Jaszczak said, “If it is a precinct that has strictly mail-in ballots, that’s the methodology we will use.” The only time the district would have a special election would be to elect a board member or for a bond issue. He reminded Urbaniak the combined polling place resolution is approved each year. Jaszczak’s further notes after the meeting stated that anyone who votes by mail will still do that, but the district is still required to establish at least one polling place for those who may forget to send in their ballot. “We have two to make it easier for our voters,” Jasczcak said. “That doesn’t mean they can not vote by mail.” So everyone who votes by mail now will automatically receive a mail-in ballot in the case of a special election. Urbaniak said he’d like to see that information in writing so people understand they don’t have to go to the polling places, but instead can vote by mail.
• Approved the resignation of head girls track coach Catie Jerome.
• Heard from Jaszczak that Sonja Klein will move into the Title I teaching position next year as JoyBeth Olson is retiring this year. That leaves the second grade teacher position open. “The most likely scenario is Melissa Casper would move into second grade next year,” he said.
The next meeting is set for Wednesday, Jan. 24 at 8 p.m.
By Enterprise staff