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New London-Spicer, Minn., School Board approves taking $1.5M tech levy to voters

NEW LONDON -- The New London-Spicer School Board approved a resolution calling a Nov. 8 special election to ask district voters to approve a $1.5 million technology improvement levy.

At the regular Monday meeting, the board unanimously passed the resolution, which seeks voter approval of $500,000 in additional property tax revenue annually for three years.

The funds would be used to purchase technology, including iPad labs and Smart Boards in each classroom, along with improvements to the district's computer networks and wireless infrastructure and staff development and instructor training.

According to Superintendent Paul Carlson, the financial impact on property taxes in the district would be similar to the impact from the levy approved in 2008. That year, district voters approved revoking a $397-per-student operating levy and replaced it with a $597-per-student levy. The increased property tax was $36 per $100,000 of property value. That levy remains in place until 2017.

The technology levy would have a similar tax burden, but only for three years, with the estimated tax increase at $37 per $100,000 of property value. The tax increase would be in addition to the operating levy.

Board chairman Robert Moller said that the district can use capital improvement funds to buy computers, but then may face difficulty having the funds for building repair and maintenance.

"We need to find a way to improve our tech-nology," Moller said. "We need the technology that the rest of the world is using."

Before the board approved the referendum, Carlson reviewed with the board that they could borrow the $1.5 million without voter approval, but would need to pay that money back with general education funds over a period of 10 years.

"Ten years and technology don't mix," board member Helena Lungstrom said, noting that the rapid advancement makes today's equipment obsolete in a few years. "We need to get the levy on the ballot."

In other action, the board:

- Approved selling $3.95 million in aid anticipation certificates to Piper Jaffray at an interest rate of 0.543 percent. The district sold the same amount of certificates last year, Carlson said, and has sold certificates for the last eight years. The certificates are repaid with state funding and help the district's cash flow through the fiscal year.

The district was approved, by the state Department of Education, to sell the certificates before the state government shutdown. Because of the shutdown, the district may not be able to invest the funds as they have in the past, but rather may need to spend more of the money more quickly, Carlson said.

- Approved on a 6-1 vote, with Board Member Holli Cogelow Ruter voting against, changes to the district's academic eligibility policy. The updated policy requires students earn sufficient credits toward graduation, or not be eligible for activities, requires that students be passing classes to be eligible and requires students earning more than one "D" grade to get academic support. Academic support includes meeting with teachers weekly, attending class and tutoring sessions. Eligibility will be reviewed at the mid-quarter and quarter marking periods.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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