Welcome back for the 2021-2022 school year. We are off to a great start at MCPSD #1 and excited to see a return of our students, families, and activities. Our back-to-school events were well received and attended this year to provide an overall feeling of excitement at all levels to begin the 2021-2022 school year. Our student enrollments have rebounded to some degree to start the school year after the challenging year last year and it is encouraging to see our numbers on all levels, in particular the kindergarten and overall K-5 numbers, continue to grow as we get closer to our peak numbers in the fall of 2019. We have capacity for continued growth with our four educational buildings as we continue to monitor our short and long range enrollment projections with our annual demographic studies by RSP & Associates. We also completed the transfer of pre-school special education to the Transportation/Early Learning Center as classes began at the new location on August 27th.
A few items of note as we start another school year to briefly address and provide clarification. Health and safety continues to be a consideration as the number of COVID-19 cases are again increasing in our county and community. The school district has its restart plan on the website for review that broadly addresses our approach to starting this school year. In general, we are starting the school year as we essentially ended the 2020-2021 school year and also brought back some items that were still absent last year such as the salad bar and some utilization of student educational groupings. Our stance, with new legislation and the state’s efforts to transfer decisions involving the pandemic locally, is to monitor the local situation accordingly and address as situations arise. The school district will be maintaining the COVID-19 dashboard to be updated each Friday with the number of cases in our buildings so parents can monitor the situation involving cases in each educational building. The school district is not conducting any levels of close contact tracing and is leaving that practice to the state Department of Health. The school district is also not contacting families of possible close contacts in the school buildings or otherwise, the Dashboard will serve as the main communication tool regarding COVID-19 cases until any adjustments are deemed necessary or warranted. We will respect all family’s decisions on how to address close contacts, either household or otherwise, and compliance with recommendations at the state level; however, in consistency with the state recognizing them as recommendations and not mandates. Students and staff who are positive for COVID-19 will be mandated to stay home for 10 days or meet requirements for testing to return to school in following NDDoH guidelines; otherwise, symptomatic or sick staff or students for any reasons are continued to be encouraged to stay home until symptoms no longer exist. In the end, the school district, following the lead of the state, will respect family decisions regarding school attendance based on exposure or illness related to COVID-19. Students, if quarantining based on COVID-19 exposure, will not be penalized in regards to attendance and students will also be welcomed back in the buildings if they have not tested positive for COVID-19. Health and safety for all staff and students remains a major goal for 2021-2022 and we will work with all families in making decisions involving their student’s health and educational well-being.
Patrons likely received their notice from the county regarding potential tax levies related to the political subdivisions including the school district. This has been addressed in previous updates, however, with the notices out I want to clarify a few items regarding the school district’s consideration of tax levies for the 2021 tax year. Mill levies represent individual tax payer responsibility regarding tax burden and ultimately the amount of tax contributed each year. Mill levies are based on overall taxable valuation included within the school district boundaries. MCPSD #1 has had the privilege of increasing taxable valuations over the past 12+ years and substantial increases of 20-30% in some of those years to bring the MCPSD #1 taxable valuation to $265,302,622 for tax year 2020. This strong taxable valuation has essentially provided property tax relief to our patrons the last several years as our total mill levy, despite three major construction projects, remains in the lower 25% of all school districts in ND. The total levy of 67.39 is still lower than 2016-2017 and any school year prior to it (156.38 total mills in 2008-2009 prior to the oil development phase).
A few events occurred this year of which will be considered by the school board in determining the mill levy; 1. Taxable valuation for tax year 2021 DECREASED for the first time in several years. The approximate $5,000,000.00 decrease was expected with the situation last year and will increase mill levies without any increase in actual dollars levied. An increase in the mill levy can be expected when the taxable valuation decreases at any substantial level. 2. The state legislature continues the multi-year process of getting all school districts to 60 mills in their general fund levies by 2025. The school district was at 42.63 in 2020 and will be forced to 60 mills, by current state law, over the next several tax years. The general fund levy will be required to increase over this span and noticed by tax payers as the state’s intentional effort to shift tax burden locally from the state provided levels for school districts below the “minimum” 60 mills through the school funding formula. Efforts to mitigate the overall mill levy and tax burden are being undertaken by the school district by utilizing other revenues to reduce other levy obligations regarding infrastructure and debt. In the end, the school district remains committed to being fiscally responsible to our taxpayers and maintaining mill levies required to operate and provide high-quality education to our students. We are pleased to be able to offer lower levies compared to other districts in the state, however, changes at the state level and future taxable valuation levels will have major impacts and limitations on what the local school district can do with its mill levy determination each year. Thank you for your continued support in this area as our school buildings remain a value to the community and attracting families and workforce to our county with the high level of educational opportunities available at all levels.
If you have any questions on health and safety, taxes, or any other topics, please reach out to me at any time. I welcome all conversations on school district topics. Also, be on the lookout for administration reaching out and visiting areas of our large geographic school district for community level discussions to welcome questions of parents and tax payers in an informal setting. More information to come on this effort.
Have a great September.