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Mitchell school board approves $200,000 opt-out

The Mitchell Board of Education unanimously approved $200,000 as the district's opt-out amount for the 2014 calendar year during Monday night's meeting at Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary.

Superintendent Joe Graves recommended the motion and said it's a reduction from the $400,000 approved for the 2012 and 2013 calendar years. Graves said because of the difference in the school year calendar and the tax year calendar, half of the $200,000 will be available for the 2013-14 academic year, and half will be available for the 2014-15 academic year. He said the fiscal school year runs from July 1 to June 30, while the tax year follows the calendar year.

A state formula dictates how much money schools receive per student, from a combination of local and state funding sources. An opt-out means a local government has made a decision to opt out of state-imposed limits on increases in annual property tax revenue. An opt-out allows local governments to collect more taxes per year from local taxpayers than the state limits would otherwise allow -- in this case, $200,000 more.

"Hopefully in 2015 we'll be able to reduce it again," Graves said.

Board member Dana Price commended the board and previous boards for keeping a close eye on opt-out funds, and working to reduce the amount.

"The guys before me, I thought, did an awfully good job of monitoring those funds, reducing where possible," Price said. "I really like the idea we're carrying on the same tradition."

The opt-out was approved by the district's voters in 2002 for up to $700,000 per year.

Capital Street closure?

Graves also said he has put in a request to the Mitchell Traffic Commission to close Capital Street, which runs north-south between Mitchell High School and the Mitchell Career and Technical Education Academy building.

As more students walk between the two buildings, Graves said a combination of teenagers not paying attention -- he mentioned texting as a factor -- and drivers going too fast or not paying attention add up to accident potential.

"We've got a safety issue there," Graves said. "I'm just worried we're going to have an accident in which a pedestrian is hurt."

An easy solution, he said, would be to close the street and put in a green space across the area. He said he expects the Traffic Commission, neighbors of the buildings and other community members to have input, which he welcomes.

"Hopefully people are going to come forward and say, 'Hey, we want some input on this,' " Graves said, in a follow-up interview with The Daily Republic. "For example, exactly where it's blocked is a good question. We want to hear from people on that issue."

Other business

In other business, the board:

• Appointed board member Neil Putnam as the Mitchell delegate to the Associated School Boards of South Dakota delegate assembly.

• Heard member reports, which included glowing reviews from board members Deb Olson, Price and Rick Johnson about the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program being implemented at Gertie Belle Rogers and L.B. Williams elementaries.

• Heard the superintendent's report, which included preliminary estimates that enrollment in the Mitchell School District appears to be up this year; Graves said numbers won't be finalized until the end of the month.

• Approved a consent agenda.

• Toured Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary.

The next board meeting is scheduled for Oct. 14 at MHS.