The Darlington School Board of Education heard from a community member at the Tuesday, Jan. 3 meeting, who was concerned about the amount his taxes had gone up.
Mark Kieler, who lives outside of Truman in Kendall Township, spoke up during public comment and asked the board why his taxes had gone up 52% this past year.
“What is the justification for that? The referendum was about 25% and then another 25% on top of that,” Kieler stated. He added that his taxes were $1100 higher than last year and ‘every penny of it went to this school district’.
He commented that it was an uncalled for rate of increase. He had spoken with other people and neighbors who felt the board snuck the referendum past the people by putting it on the least attended voting day, back in August 2016.
School board president Aaron Wolfe addressed the date, stating that the referendum had run in April but had failed so the next available date the school could run the referendum in order to have the funds for the 2016-2017 school year would have been the August election date.
“It was not to sneak it in. We had a lot of public information out. We did everything we could to inform the public about it,” Wolfe said.
Kieler stated the school did everything to make sure it would pass. Board member Joe Riechers asked Kieler, “So it is our fault that people don’t pay attention to when the election dates are?”
“Why do you have to stick it to the taxpayers under the table?” Kieler answered.
Riechers asked how it was under the table. Kieler said he misspoke and reiterated that the board knew there wasn’t going to be that large of a turn out.
“Once it failed, why not just except that? You know very well it would have failed the second time,” Kieler argued.
Wolfe again explained the reason for the August 2016 election date. The school only has control over the increase in mil rate because of the referendum.
“If your increase was 52%, then that has to be external,” Wolfe clarified.
School board member Nick Zuberbuhler asked if the land around Kieler had been reevaluated?
Kieler replied that the only thing that changed was what came off of his taxes and went toward the Darlington School District. He stated that he owns land in Belmont and it only went up 12.7%.
“Either we are getting a smoke screen sent at us or something isn’t right,” Kieler commented.
Wolfe and District Administrator Denise Wellnitz stated that they would be willing to look over more of Kieler’s taxes to figure out what the issue may be.
After reviewing Kieler’s taxes, Wolfe had this comment to make, “Depending on how the equalized value of each municipality changed from 2015 to 2016, each municipality will see a different impact from our tax levy (and increase due to the referendum). This year we had an unusual situation where the Town of Kendall’s equalized value increased a lot (26.77%). That means they became a larger “share” of the district and became a larger source of our tax levy. This combined with the increase due to the referendum means they had a total school tax levy increase of 47.45%. What individuals see on their tax bill will vary depending on their valuation situation. Seymour and Shullsburg are in similar situations having significant increases in their equalized valuations. So they too see a larger increase in the school tax levy. Also - municipalities typically calculate mill rates based on assessed rather than equalized value. So the mill rate they may state for the school portion of property tax would be higher than the rate we approve and publish. The City of Darlington calculates the school district’s mill rate at 13.05 for 2016.”
The board also discussed a bid that came in for cameras in the DEMS building. The district had budgeted $12,000 for putting some cameras in the building. A bid came in for placing the cameras completely throughout the building for $47,090.
There were other items in Building and Grounds that were in the budget that the board considered evaluating what to be done this year and what to be done next year. The school district had budgeted $21,526 for the gymnasium floor that would not be used. Wolfe commented that if that amount were added, they would still be about $14,000 short to reach the $47,090 bid. Wellnitz didn’t feel they would be able to get the DHS parking lot done by June since they typically do that in July or August.
“You aren’t going to want to get it done until the roof is done,” board member Bob Hermanson stated. Wellnitz agreed that they would be having heavy equipment on the parking lot fixing the roof. The district had budgeted $35,000 for the DHS parking lot.
Zuberbuhler motioned that the school use the $12,000 already budgeted, as well as the money budgeted for the gym floor and the DHS parking lot to pay for cameras in DEMS with Riechers second. The motion passed.
The Darlington School Board of Education also approved:
-to solicit for RFPs for Act 32 projects.
-the resale of DHS football jerseys. The administration suggested the jerseys be sold at $105 each and $150-170 for the set and $40-50 for practice jerseys. Activities Director Kurt Cohen commented that there are 118 jerseys and most have their pair, along with 20 white and 14 black practice jerseys. The money will go into the general fund and will be used to try and offset some of the cost of the new jerseys being purchased by the Touchdown Club. The jerseys can be sold but will not be received until the new jerseys are on hand.
-Julie Fitzsimons as the DHS Library / Social Media Assistant.
-the certification of school board candidates and drawing for ballot order: Nick Zuberbuhler, Matt Crist, Joe Schilling and Donna Jean Wiegel
-to hire Clarey Knellwolf half time as Assistant Forensic Coach with Kalee Crist sharing the position half time.
-to approve the Dec. 29, 2016 agreement with Prostar Surfaces, Inc. where in Prostar will pay the District $62,000 according to schedule: $17,000 no later that 1-31-2017; $15,000 no later that 3-1-2017; $15,000 no later than 6-1-2017; $15,000 no later than 10-2-2017.