In the swirling ebbs and flows of district finances, the North Branch Area Schools has found itself in a relative calm spot as of late. The end result of this financial serenity is a small reduction in the 2021 levy, to the tune of a $10,700 (.11%) decrease from last year.

During the mandatory Truth in Taxation meeting, held at the same time as the general school board meeting on Dec. 10, Director of Finance Todd Tetzlaff gave a short presentation on how the district accomplished this reduction.

According to Tetzlaff, the district works somewhat with an equalized levy system. 

“What that means is if a levy amount goes up in a district, the corresponding state aid might go down,” Tetzlaff said. “And the opposite can happen as well. If the state aid goes up, the equalized levy portion can go down.”

Broken down into the various sub-levies, Tetzlaff said the general levy did increase by about $386,000, however that increase was offset by a $401,000 decrease in the general debt service.

Aside from the levy, Tetzlaff said the district’s general fund is in good shape.

“Our unassigned general fund grew from 1.9% on July 1, 2019, to roughly 7.1% on June 30, 2020,” Tetzlaff said. “We do have a school board policy to maintain a fund balance between 5% and 10%, so we are in that area.”

Ice Rink to be used again

For many years, the old hockey rink located on the south side of the high school grounds has been sitting empty, with the boards and warming house in dilapidated condition. But now, thanks to a joint powers agreement between the city and school district, the rink will be given new life.

Under the new agreement, which was approved by the city council during their Dec. 8 meeting and the school board during their Dec. 10 meeting, the city will have usage of the rink, plus be allowed to offer parking in the bus coral lot adjacent to the rink. In exchange, the city will take care of the maintenance of the rink, including flooding it each winter when temperatures allow.

Besides public skating, this agreement will give the North Branch Area Hockey Association an additional location to conduct practices and perhaps even organized games, as long as the hockey association provides proper liability insurance coverage.

“This is a collaboration effort by the school district and the city to refurbish and have the hockey rink available hopefully for quite a long time,” School Board Chair Kirby Ekstrom said. “It’s an agreement that is good for the city and the school district to offer another opportunity for the hockey youth group and for like an open skating situation.”

For their part, the city wasted no time in trying to get the rink up and running, starting the flooding process on Tuesday, Dec. 15.

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