Board OKs tax increase related to new high school

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by Dave DeMars

The Sartell-St. Stephen school board voted on July 16 to implement the planned increase for additional revenue to finance school operations. The annual financial impact is projected to be an additional $82 per $100,000 of assessed value, according to the district. The revenue authorization would be applicable for 10 years.

The levy will appear on the November general election ballot.

This was something that we had talked about back when we passed the bond issue,” said Superintendent Jeff Schwiebert. “We said we’re not going to ask for the district patrons money now because we don’t need it right away. We won’t need it until we get into that building. And guess what? A year from today we will be pretty close to getting into that building and that is about when this revenue stream will start.”

With the passage of the referendum authorizing the building of a new high school, voters OK’d an increase in taxes to fund the operation of schools in the system. Much of the increase is related to the new high school. The board deferred the collection of increased revenue until such time as the funds would actually be needed. Now the time has arrived.

The present tax is $37.72 per $100,000 of valuation. The increase will add $82.62 per $100,000 of valuation to the tax bill increasing the tax bill on a $100,000 property to $120.34. A property valued at $300,000 would see an increase three times that of a $100,000 property for an increase of $361.02.


Construction at the new high school and upgrades and modernizing at other district sites occupied a good portion of the July 16 meeting. The board also learned of a revamped principal evaluation program.

Lee Gruen, project manager at Bradbury Stamm Construction, highlighted his report with photographs of the construction site shot from a drone. Among the items he reported was completion or near completion of several different portions of the project. Items mentioned were the near completion of all concrete pouring. What is left should be done by the end of August.

Also noted was the completion of the major structural steel installation in the main part of the building. Some work remains to be done in the theater area, but will be finished soon. Most of the roofing has been completed or will be by month’s end. Brick work is proceeding apace and the theater and pool areas will be completed by September.

Exterior work, including work on activity fields, is being completed with the base work on several fields already put down and ready for the next course scheduled to be installed. Irrigation systems for the fields are largely completed.

Gruen reported everything is pretty much on schedule despite some heavy rains. There are no areas of concern at this time. Gruen said on any given day, 100 to 120 workers are on the jobsite working to stay on schedule.

Schwiebert remarked there have been a number of improvements made at Pine Meadow Elementary School and that the building is in excellent shape for a 20-year-old building. Among the improvements was repaving and striping the parking sites. The sites have been widened by 9 inches meaning there will be fewer dings in the car doors, Schwiebert joked.

High School Principal Brenda Steve and Middle School Principal Kurt Stumpf reported on the Principal Evaluation Plan that is being put into effect for the 2018-19 school year. The purpose of the plan is to align with the the Minnesota statute which aims to ensure principals of schools in the state achieve the highest levels of quality and accountability through ongoing evaluation.

It is a more comprehensive plan,” Steve said.

Much of what the plan aims to achieve was already going on in the Sartell district, but one area of concern was lack of remediation. That means if there are areas not being addressed, the district and principals have a way to develop plans to address the shortcoming.

I really like this with all the new standards,” said board member Mary McCabe as she paged through the document. “I think it is great you are open to doing something that is pretty standard and still incorporates getting information from your staff about how they perceive you performing. This is about growth.”

The previous plan used in the district was difficult to translate to new and incoming principals. With the adoption of this plan, all of the principals will be using the same tool, Steve said. That should make for more uniform performance and advancement.

Action items

The board approved the following action items:

Board approved actions or contractual agreements.

Approved three-year contract with Trobec Bus Service to transport students. The contract will run through the 2019-20 school year.

Approved 2018-19 membership in Minnesota School Boards Association.

Approved annual membership for the Schools for Equity in Education. The renewal fee for the 2018-2019 school year is $5,372.83. The fee for 2017-2018 was $5,258.00

Approved revisions and updates in the 2018-19 District Employee Handbook. Schwiebert remarked having a standardized handbook was a very important piece in helping the workforce of the district work together smoothly and efficiently. It reduced much of the difficulties in working in the district.

Approved Academic and Activities Handbook revisions and updates for students for the 2018-19 school year

Approved a Long-Term Facility Maintenance 10-Year Expenditure Application required by the Minnesota Department of Education. This plan requires the district to do 10-year planning for things such as new roofs on buildings, equipment replacement, and improving indoor air quality and services.

The next school board meeting will be 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 20 in the District Center Board Room.

photo by Dave DeMars
Principals Brenda Steve (left) and Kurt Stumpf (right) explain how the new Principal Evaluation Plan will be more aligned with state statutes. “It’s more comprehensive,” Steve told the board.

photo by Dave DeMars
Board member Mary McCabe reacts to the new Principal Evaluation Plan. “It’s about growth,” she said.

Author: Dave DeMars

Born and raised in Wisconsin – a “Happy Days” high school experience. Attended UW-River Falls and followed their motto – “Where the free spirit prevails.” Four years in the Army Security Agency (Spies), 31 years teaching English and directing plays. Other jobs – gandy dancer, counselor at mental institution, snowmaker, apple picker, concrete finishing, janitor, furniture mover, appliance sales, insurance sales, media sales, real estate, and writer. I am skeptical to a fault and like all human being I am more oxymoron than I am anything else. I blog at

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