Butterfield-Odin School board passes resolution to place levy on November 2020 ballot

Submitted by Arely Anaya

The Butterfield-Odin School Board passed a two-part resolution to place a levy on the ballot for November 3, 2020, to raise sufficient revenues for the district to operate.

Voters will decide to set a new ten-year levy, which will revoke the existing operating referendum that is set to expire in three years. The new referendum will provide $130,000 more every year for the next ten years. The second ballot question asks voters to set a capital outlay levy, also for the next ten years, totaling $1.2 million.

The capital levy will fund replacing outdated Smartboards, purchasing Chromebooks to keep a 1-1 initiative, updating the curriculum, purchasing/leasing vans that will be moved out of service, replacing obsolete communication equipment, funding a part-time IT person, funding phones/internet, and updating the media center. The new dollars will help balance the budget. The district can't purchase the listed items without the capital levy.

“I look at this capital levy portion of it and to me it just looks like a blank check,” said board member Andy Pierson. “I asked last week how much it was going to be, and you told me you didn’t know, and now it's $1.2 million over ten years…that’s a chunk.”

“The operating referendum is spread over the tax spaces of the residential, commercial, and homestead, which is one house and one acre,” said Business Manager Lindsey Heine. “The capital levy is spread between everybody. So, not just ag land. It’s the same basis as the operating referendum but adding the ag land. It’s actually a bigger tax basis. It’s spread out more.”

“The operating piece, we’ve taken to the absolute maximum allowed by statute,” said Managing Director Greg Baufield from Northland Public Finance. “There’s no upward capacity to add any additional taxes to the referendum.”

Pierson didn’t support passing the resolution.

Board member Shannon Sykes asked Pierson where he purposes the district obtain the additional funds needed for future purchases. “Do we just fault and close the school? What’s your suggestion without having that money? I realize we’re taxing the farmers more than residents in Butterfield, but I’m just curious about where you think we can get this extra money.”

“We’re going to have to make cuts,” said Pierson.

The board asked Superintendent Steve Thomas to make cuts a few months back, but he quickly saw Butterfield-Odin doesn’t have enough “fluff” to cut back on. He described making more cuts would be unhealthy for the district.  

In the end, the board passed the resolution, 6 to 1.  

From the superintendent report, Thomas included the Butterfield-Odin 2020-21 Safe Learning Plan, which was published on the school’s Facebook page last Thursday. The school used guidance from MDE, MDH, and local health officials to create a plan using three models: in-person learning, distance learning, and hybrid learning. The guidance included a matrix indicating learning model parameters based on the number of cases per 10,000 people over 14 days by county of residence. Butterfield-Odin’s Safe Learning Plan outlines five learning model phases based on the matrix.

The phases include:

–Phase 1: In-person learning for all Butterfield-Odin students for 0-9 cases

–Phase 2: In-person learning for pre-k through 6th grade and hybrid learning for 7th through 12th grade for 10-19 cases

–Phase 3: Hybrid learning for all students for 20-29 cases

–Phase 4: Hybrid elementary and distance learning for grades 7th through 12th for 30-49 cases

–Phase 5: Distance learning for all students for 50+ cases

When the Safe Learning Plan was released on August 13, the district was in phase 2. This could change, which is why Butterfield-Odin will let everyone know on August 24 which phase the school will begin with for the 2020-21 school year. The phase could change every two weeks during the school year, depending on the county’s case rate. The Safe Learning Plan also includes a link to a family survey to gather feedback.  

From the principal report, Tyson Walker summarized Extended Learning and Boost Camp, which finished on August 13. Seventh through eleventh graders completed some credit recovery for 2019-20 third trimester assignments from distance learning to improve their incomplete grades to passing. ELLs also spent more time on English study. The elementary had a similar experience along with differentiated instruction in math and reading and getting reacquainted in various support pieces for all three learning models.

Additionally, the Butterfield-Odin EL Department was featured in the 2020 MDE Back to School Professional Learning Conference, an annual event for superintendents. EL Specialist Dr. Amy Young from MDE highlighted the EL Department during her presentation on Increasing Achievement for Multilingual Learners in Greater Minnesota. Dr. Young interviewed Thomas, Walker, and the EL staff throughout the hour, provided a snapshot of how the department is working to improve education for ELLs, and giving suggestions to other districts to do the same.

“It was a lot of fun to be able to interact with a few of the superintendents that participated virtually,” said Walker.

Thomas added, “Thank you, our school board members, for having insight on moving forward months ago on my recommendation to add two more EL staff. Your understanding of the need here at Butterfield is having a huge positive effect and will continue.”

Other approved items:

–resolution relating to the election of a school board members and calling the school district general election. Candidates include Kristin Haseman, Susan Fast, and Pam Xayaphonesongkham.

–the 2020-21 Butterfield-Odin School calendar

–the second reading of the Butterfield-Odin Technology User Handbook and Device Agreement

The next hybrid school board meeting will be on Monday, September 28, 2020, at 7:00 p.m. in the school’s media center and on the Butterfield PBIS Youtube channel.