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Board cuts 2011 tax levy

School board member Larry Zea marks his departure from the board, switching from his usual black Stetson to one similar to what he wears in his role as Santa Claus at the mall in Bemidji. It's a task he's happily relished for years.

Taxpayers were the winners when the Blackduck School Board met Monday night.

The board voted to cut the preliminary levy approved in September by two-thirds. Instead of the earlier figure of taxes based on a 20.1 mill rate, the final levy was set at 6.82 mills.

The reduction was approved in a four-two roll call vote, following a Truth in Taxation presentation by school business manager Dave Decker. That hearing, meeting state law requirements, included a detailed history of school finances over the past decade and showed how taxes have been tied to the rise and fall in state funding.

A small number of school district resident taxpayers sat through Decker's run-down of where funding will be required in the coming year, asked about specific items and then watched as board member Larry Zea moved for approval of the levy. His motion came after a suggestion by Superintendent Bob Doetsch for a slightly higher 2011 mill rate of just over 8 mills failed to garnish support.

It was Zea's last board meeting as he had not run for reelection and the last too, for Bob Stroeing, who also had not run.

Both voted for the decrease as did Mark Sparby and board chair Dale Compton.

Opposed were Grant Mistic and Cynthia Nord.

In earlier action, the board approved student transfers but only after Zea had voiced objection to permitting virtual attendance at state-approved Internet high school.

"I object because on principle, I just don't agree with online school," he said.

Later, when the board accepted resignations from head foot ball coach Jesse Hickman and head volley ball coach Robin Mistic, Zea spoke up again.

"When we're faced with the loss of two coaches as we are, it's time to suggest to a few parents that they lay off the guff. Coaches have a tough enough job without all the sidelines advice. Some people need to be reminded that we can't have a winning team all the time."

Decker later was asked copies of materials used during his presentation.

He particularly had pointed out that Minnesota has two tax refund programs as well as one tax deferral program. In every case, he emphasized, the refund and deferral programs only are available if taxpayers fill out the forms and send them in.

Reflecting the concern voiced during his remarks, he said the programs are most helpful to those with lower incomes. For those eligible, tax savings of up to $2,310 can make the paperwork worthwhile.

(State tax form M-1PR was listed as one to ask about).

Reports from food service manager Jo Lange, high school principal Wendy Templin and elementary administrator Lorraine Warden were heard and acknowledged.

Warden included a mention of the good news-bad news for one elementary student, Maddie Hall. In a physical activity competition, she won a chance to be included in a drawing for tickets to a Vikings game. The storm that hit the Twin Cities and the collapse of the Metrodome roof and the game being moved to Detroit, left her winning somewhat in limbo.