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Bond issue brings new busses

Three new busses that were a major factor in voter approval of a bond issue in the August election ate up nearly a quarter million dollars of the more than $800,000 voters OK'd. At a cost of $81,380 each, the new vehicles will replace the oldest ones in the present fleet. A smaller van will be added soon.

Work on the school roof and exterior walls, also financed in the bond issue, will be done during the next construction season, school board members were reminded during their regular meeting Monday night.

When acting chairman Grant Mistic, presiding in the absence of chairman Dale Compton, opened the session to comments from the audience, the response came quickly. Several wanted to talk about a report in The American after last month's meeting. It said a 15 percent tax increase might take place next year. One man wanted to know if the story was correct. (It was).

Another asked if the board understood that there is a recession and there will be hardships with an increase like that. Superintendent Robert Doetsch answered for the board that yes, they knew that. He was asked if that 15 percent figure was real.

In the discussion that followed, it was explained that the state sets the maximum increase a local board can approve as it gets ready to set its budget. The law provides that the final amount of the levy may be reduced, but may not be raised. That budget will get final approval at the December meeting.

Business manager Dave Decker said the board customarily sets the preliminary figure at the maximum and just as customarily, lowers it in the final budget levy. He and Doetsch agreed a cut of a third or more would be likely.

When Doetsch was reminded that for the past half-dozen years, or more, District 32 tax-payers have been told the district was on the verge of bankruptcy, he said, despite the recent bond issue approval which includes money for major repairs, there is still a long list of things that need fixing. "The furnace and the whole heating system is going to need replacement soon," he said and that may cost another million dollars."

Pressed for thoughts on what might be done, he pointed to adoption of the 4-day week, which has saved $130,000. He agreed that "the community is being overtaxed, but I just don't have any more answers."

Asked about new teachers being hired, Doetsch explained that in almost every case, the newly-hired instructors were being paid with dedicated state or federal funds which can be used only for specific purposes.

As an example, a Title VII teacher will be hired to teach reading at the fourth, fifth and sixth grade levels. Title VII funds are Native American monies and must be used to teach those subjects only to Native American students. The board later approved hiring a half-time teacher as Doetsch had outlined.

There was a brief review of a $150,000 federal fund allocated to Blackduck as part of a presidential effort to pay for replacement of teachers let go because of a shortage of dollars. No action was taken but a short discussion showed interest in hiring an elementary grades physical education instructor and possibly elective classes in the high school.

Excellent participation in parent-teacher conferences was reported, along with information on school lunch programs. Jo Lange said right now, 58.9 percent of student qualify for meals that are either served free or at a reduced rate.

The November board meeting was re-scheduled for Nov. 15 and the Dec. 13 meeting designated to also serve as the annual Truth in Taxation session.