La Crescent-Hokah Middle & High School

Students wait to be picked up at the entrance of the La Crescent-Hokah Middle and High School.

La Crescent-Hokah school district residents can expect to see higher property tax bills from the district this winter after the school board approved its 2018 tax levy at a public hearing last week.

The levy, which was set at $3,073,836, is up $632,584 or roughly 25 percent from last year.

Business Manager Sandy Strozyk said the figures were close to those projected ahead of the November referendum.

Based on the projection, a property owner with a home valued at $100,000 can expect to pay $101 more in property taxes this year.

The board also approved a plan to hire a new business manager and extend Strozyk’s contract to June 30.

Strozyk had planned to retire at the end of December when her contract was set to expire.

Superintendent Kevin Cardile said Strozyk has done a lot to help clean up the district’s finances. The district now needs to replace her.

Cardille plans to accept applications until Jan. 24, and begin interviews on Jan. 29. A prospective hire date is set for Feb. 20.

The new manager would be expected to attend a conference put on by the Minnesota Association of School Business Officials on Feb. 26. Additional training would be provided two days a week by Strozyk.

“Hiring someone to do this is extremely important,” said Board Treasurer Kent Summerfield.

He said the new business manager’s salary should be based on experience.

“We’re going to have to pay good money to get a good person in there, and it’s a good investment,” Summerfield said.

Based on regional salaries, Cardille had set the maximum salary for the position at $68,000. The position would be an independent contract, and the district could work out additional incentives.

“I think it’s a great place to start, but I think we may need to dig a little deeper, if need be,” said Vice Chair Wade Welper.

He said the district may need to raise the maximum salary to be competitve

“If people are thinking that top of the range might not be enough, we should give (Cardille) the flexibility now, because with this timeline, we won’t have another board meeting by the time we start interviews,” he said.

Strozyk agreed, adding because the next year was a pay equity year, the district may need to consider a higher salary or risk fines.

“That might be a little low since it’s a pay equity year, so you might have to raise that,” said Strozyk. “Or you’ll get dinged and you’ll have to come back and pay them more anyway, because you’ll get fined after the report.”

Strozyk was uncertain what business managers were paid around the state, but added the key was to find someone who has a strong background in accounting and who is willing to learn.

“You’re not going to get someone that knows school finances right away,” said Strozyk. “This is the biggest problem that most schools in the state have right now, because so many of us older people that have been doing it forever have retired. You don’t learn this anywhere, because they don’t teach school finance in college, you learn it on the job and going to workshops.”

The board voted to bump the maximum salary to $75,000 and approved the timeline.

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Houston County News reporter

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