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New London-Spicer school board certifies 2011 levy

NEW LONDON -- The New London-Spicer School Board certified the 2011 property tax levy of $3,670,573.79 at its regular meeting Monday.

The annual levy is $193,005 less than the previous levy of $3,863,578.87 and is the portion of funding that comes directly from taxable property in the district. The funds will be used during the 2011-12 school year.

The general fund levy is $1,816,509; the community service levy is $150,961.75; the debt service levy is $1,672,038.58; and the post-employment benefits levy is $224,070.

While the levy was reduced by 5 percent, the district's budget included 11 percent reductions from 2009-10 to 2010-11. The 2009-10 budget and expenses were $18.1 million, while the current year's budget and expenses are $16.08 million.

The board also approved a resolution closing open enrollment in the eighth grade for the year or until enrollment drops below 110 students. As of Dec. 1, there were 114 students in the eighth grade. The district expected 107 eighth-grade students this year.

Overall, there are 1,475 students registered in the district, 34 more than the 1,441 students that were expected.

According to Superintendent Paul Carlson, the additional enrollees are students moving with their families into the district and open enrollees who reside in other districts.

The additional eighth-grade students are pushing class sizes to higher-than-expected levels, creating space and opportunity challenges, according to administrators.

School officials have been working to address the larger classes by having special education teachers working in the classrooms and having students leave the classroom for the middle school alternative learning program, Carlson and Middle School Principal Trish Perry told the board.

The growing numbers are putting a strain on both the classroom and special education teachers, Perry said. There are also space issues and computer access issues with more students than available computer terminals.

District policy and state law allow the district to close a grade when more students are open enrolling than enrolling out to other districts. There are 20 eighth-graders enrolling in, while 12 eighth-graders enroll out, according to Carlson.

The board also discussed with Michael Krause of Kandiyohi Partners the possibility of placing solar panels on the roof of Prairie Meadows Learning Center in Spicer and on the high school building in New London. The Prairie Meadows project could be funded by federal tax credits purchased by an investor and later by the district, plus a state program funded by Xcel Energy. The high school roof could be considered as one of two locations for a community project spearheaded by Willmar Municipal Utilities and Kandi Power. Discussion on a letter of intent was referred to the district's building committee and the issue is expected to be discussed at the Jan. 10 board meeting.

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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