Levy set at $3.5 million for Shell Lake School District

Shell Lake school board
Two school district members were present for the Shell Lake School District’s annual meeting Monday, Sept. 26, which set the tax levy at about $3.5 million. Shown (L to R): Laura Stunkel, elementary principal; Heather Cox, 7-12 principal; Wanda Zeug and Joane Green. — Photo by Danielle Danford

Danielle Danford | Staff writer

SHELL LAKE – The Shell Lake School District is healthy financially, according to information shared at the school district’s annual meeting Monday, Sept. 26.

“We have no short-term or long-term debt. Our books have been audited and our figures balance out. The audit report and all our financial reports have been submitted to DPI,” said Scott Smith, school board treasurer, to the two district residents present at the meeting. Stuart Olson, board president, was the only school board member not present for the meeting. Heather Cox, 7-12 principal, and Laura Stunkel, elementary principal, were also present for the meeting.

David Bridenhagen, superintendent, gave a presentation on the school district’s budget starting off by stating, “Our budget as it is presented tonight did not include the governor’s proposal because it did not get approved until just last week.”

For Shell Lake, the 2017-19 state budget will increase its per pupil state aid by about $200 for this school year. Next year there will be an additional $204, so over the budget’s two-year cycle the school district will receive an additional $404 per student.

According to the figures presented at the annual meeting, the levy is estimated at $3,526,755, which represents a mill rate of 9.71.

“I’m quite sure that’s going to be lower than 9.71, once we’ve calculated in the additional revenues from the state and the third-Friday count we’re probably going to see something comparable to 2016-17,” said Bridenhagen. Last year the mill rate was 9.52.

The estimated mill rate of 9.71 amounts to $34 a year in taxes on a $100,000 house. The tax levy was adopted at $3,525,571 on a unanimous voice vote.

Total revenues, based on an estimated enrollment figure for this year, are listed at $8,052,220. Expenditures reflect revenues, but are a decrease of about $150,000 compared to last year.

Bridenhagen said the decrease is likely due to a reduction of more highly paid staff and the exclusion of two large capital expenses the district made last year, the purchase of two school buses, which aren’t necessary this year.

Among the revenues the school district utilizes are some grants and donations that fund programs and purchases including the Bosch Community Fund, the Shell Lake Parent Teacher Association, the Shell Lake Educational Foundation, and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant. The district is in the final year of one 21st CCLC grant and has three years remaining on another. These grants help fund the district’s summer school program.

The district also has two capital improvement funds, Funds 41 and 46, that are used to set aside money for improvement projects. Fund 41 receives $30,000 annually, while Fund 46 has a current balance of about $300,000.

Bridenhagen reported the district uses a consortium health insurance with seven other school districts, which provides the district with smoother rate increases.

“We find by doing that we don’t have the ups and downs, depending on if we had a year with some pretty significant illnesses in the district. Some districts have seen 30-, 35-percent increases in insurance rates. We haven’t seen that,” said Bridenhagen.

Bridenhagen also gave a presentation on the state of the district. In his presentation, Bridenhagen shared details on the district’s academic goals, noted an increase in summer school participation and went over updates to district facilities.

“We have high expectations for all students and it really truly is all. It doesn’t matter if they’re special education or what their socioeconomic status is, we maintain those expectations,” said Bridenhagen.

This summer the school district saw an increase of 150 students participating in the summer school program. In total, the district had 368 students participating in the summer school program. That figure includes students that participated in the Prairie Fire Theatre production, band camp, weight room use, swim lessons and general summer school classes.

Some updates to the district’s facilities Bridenhagen shared include new chairs in the 3-12 library, the remodeling in the computer lab, the purchase of a new lawn mower, the replacement of a maintenance truck, and the purchase and installation of LED lights in the 3-12 building.