Wolford school district sets mill levies, continues dissolution process
The Wolford School Board voted Tuesday evening to set mill levies for the 2019-2020 budget year at 95 to meet financial challenges posed by building maintenance issues and student tuitions.
The regular meeting, held in the defunct school’s library, had on its agenda topics ranging from chemical disposal and building maintenance to student tuition costs and mill levies.
Asbestos concerns topped the list of building maintenance issues discussed. Wolford School Superintendent Larry Zavada told the board members he had submitted an application for a free asbestos assessment by the Environmental Protection Agency August 27.
Zavada said, “Our application has been approved, so I’m going to mail (documents) to them tomorrow. And that’s just to prepare them for a visit.”
Zavada said he had received help to apply for the help from the Souris Basin Planning Council. “They’ve (been) really helpful,” he noted. “(Souris Basin) said that if we have a real issue and it looks like we want to have some of the asbestos removed, that there are competitive grants that they would do most of the work on.”
Zavada said many decisions affecting the building’s future hinged on the possible presence and content of asbestos.
One such decision would be selling the building.
The board discussed conversations with representatives from Father’s Farm, described as an area nonprofit offering training and rehabilitation services.
“There’s a farmstead they bought three miles north of here,” said board member Alan Olson. “So, they are thinking of this possible building for recreation, and they’re thinking of cabinetmaking, and things like that.”
The board also took time to read a statement from an attorney representing a potential buyer for the property. Zavada told the group the contents and terms were not for public record, and discussing them would have to take place in executive session.
Zavada also brought up another possible decision for the building.
“I did talk to (Board President Jeff Slaubaugh) awhile, and this is what people are not going to want to hear, but it’s about demolition, and it has to be discussed,” Zavada said in a somber voice. He presented the board with a bid from one North Dakota contractor, who pegged the cost between $125,000 to $150,000.
“If we wanted to go that route, we’d have to open it up to bids,” Zavada added.
The board also heard about water leaks caused by recent rainfall in more parts of the building.
“In town, we got 3.35 (inches of rainfall) Friday through Sunday,” Zavada said. “There’s probably a quart in the science room; two gallons at least, in the social studies room. After this rain, there’s leaks everywhere. It’s musty and moldy; I have to open the doors to air it out.”
“There’s a new spot (with a leak),” he added. “The south wall of the south locker room has water running down along the edge. But the north one’s bad.”
Business Manager Wanita Olson updated the board on more accounts she was closing out and streamlining. She estimated financial reports would soon take up only one page. Olson estimated she would finish budget documents and submit them to Pierce County Auditor Karin Fursather by October 10.
The board voted to levy 95 mills in tax money for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.
“(The figure) is still less than area schools,” Zavada noted, indicating Rolette County levies 105 mills, and Pierce County’s mill levy sits at 115.
Rolette Public Schools Superintendent Wade Sherwin attended the meeting and answered questions about tuition costs for the 11 former Wolford students now attending schools in his district.
Leeds Public Schools charge the Wolford District $9,006.00 in tuition for three former Wolford students, while Rolette Public Schools charge $49,500.00 for 11 students. Rugby Public Schools do not charge Wolford tuition for the 16 students they received.
However, Wolford pays Hartley’s Bus Service $45,900 per year to transport 16 students to Rugby schools, while the district pays $52,209 to Harlow’s Bus Service to transport the 11 Rolette students to school.
Board member Josh Anderson asked Sherwin, “How did you guys come up with your tuition calculation? What’s the reasoning for your amounts?”
Sherwin told the board that representatives from Harlow’s were still negotiating transportation costs.
“Actually,” Sherwin said, “Nobody was comfortable with the larger amount. (Rolette Public School Business Manager Michele Grenier) did some calculations, and she followed as closely with these (Leeds tuition figures) as she could, and she was working with the state, and she came up with these.”
Sherwin said the tuition numbers “could have been double, or pretty close.”
“An education in Rolette versus Rugby is just the population of the students,” Sherwin explained. “It costs a lot to educate our high school students versus Rugby, whereas, it’s the elementary students at our school, because we counteract with Title I money, it’s quite inexpensive to educate the elementary kids at our school. It’s like a fourth (of the cost) of the high school. Out of our 11, a majority were high school kids.”
In other business, the board heard Hubert Hotchkiss present options for winterizing the building’s boilers, and the board approved financials and bill payments for the month.
The next regular meeting of the Wolford School Board will be Tuesday, October 29 at 7 p.m. in the school library.
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