School levy to fall 0.7 percent

FAIRMONT — The Fairmont School Board helds its annual truth-in-taxation public hearing Tuesday.

The district is proposing a local property tax levy of $5.7 million payable for 2017-2018, or an increase of 6 percent. However, with the passage of the state ag land tax credit, which benefits owners of farm land, the levy will actually be reduced about 0.7 percent.

“It’s confusing, so we have to tell people it looks like a 6 percent increase but the end result is a 0.7 percent decrease, and I think that will be very good for the residents of our district,” said Superintendent Joe Brown.

The board also discussed the 2017-2018 budget. Revenues are $24.5 million, while expenditures are $25.38 million, with expenditures exceeding revenues by $873,208.

In other business, the board was presented the 2016-2017 World’s Best Workforce summary report. The World’s Best Workforce bill was passed by the Legislature in 2013 to ensure that every school district in the state is making strides to increase student performance. Brown reported that the five main areas of focus are: school readiness, third-grade literacy, closing the academic achievement gap, making sure all students are college- or career-ready, and making sure all students graduate.

Last school year, 94.8 percent of students were in progress or proficient on the kindergarten readiness study. This year, there was a slight increase, up to 95.3 percent.

Likewise, an increase in regard to third-grade literacy was seen, with 58 percent proficient in their reading comprehension skills, up from 53 percent last school year.

As for closing the academic achievement gap, the district’s goal of a 5 percent increase on the MCA in literacy skills of students so standards are met in math and reading has not yet been met at the high school.

In 2016, students at the high school who received free and reduced lunch scored 42.6 percent in math, while full-pay students scored 56.3. In 2017, students who received free and reduced lunch scored 35 percent, while full-pay scored 62.7.

As for reading, in 2016, free and reduced lunch students scored 45.1, while full-pay scored 59.2. In 2017, free and reduced lunch scored 38.8, while full-pay scored 62.

The goal is for 100 percent of Fairmont High School graduates to show college readiness according to the National Career Readiness Certificate, as determined by earning a score of 14 or higher on the ACT. Ninety-five percent of students in the 2016-2017 school year earned a score of 14 or higher.

The goal of having all students graduate is in progress with the 2017 graduation rate being 89.2 percent.

Brown said that while there is still a lot of work to do, progress has been made overall.

The board also went over the principals contract, which is a two-year contract. The district’s health and hospitalization contribution increased from $21,000 to $21,600 for 2017-18 and 2018-19. Principals will receive reimbursement for up to 12 days of unused sick leave accrued during the current school year. Each day will be reimbursed at the current substitute teacher rate of pay, and payments will be deposited into a health care savings plan. There will be a wage increase of 3.6370 percent for 2017-2018 and 3.0329 percent for 2018-2019. The board approved the contract.

In other news, the board:

o Accepted a $500 donation from A & E Construction Supply, Inc. for high school vocational programs.

o Accepted a $3,435 donation from Central Farm Service to the high school Agriculture Academy. These dollars are from profits gained from the sale of corn harvested on the Mayo property.