December 5, 2019


ISD 2142 certifies 2020 levy with 0.19% increase, Medica insurance increase cut a third


The annual Truth in Taxation part of the regular ISD 2142 St. Louis County Schools board meeting was held last Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the District Office in Virginia. Business Manager Kim Johnson presented a report that the total proposed levy payable in 2020 would bring in $6,826,933.03, up from $6,814,115.67 for last year or an increase of 0.19 percent or $12,817.35. Helping to keep the increase down was the Taconite Replacement which would be $561,169.97 compared to $435,776.59 for last year or an increase of $125,393.38. This is due to the increase in taconite production. Without it, taxpayers would have to make up the difference.
Johnson also reported that the Total Referendum Market Value Levy would rise 3.9 percent from $1,711,645.45 to $1,778,806.46 or an increase of $67,161.01. This levy is for Homesteaded property.
The 2020 budget will see the General Fund Balance go from $5,643,567 as of 6/30/18 to $6,888,927 unaudited as of 6/30/19 to $5,485,114 as of 6/30/20. Total fund balances as of 6/30/20 come to $12,917,946 with that figure including $1,345,401 Restricted Debt Service.
There were a couple of residents at the meeting wanting answers to why their tax bill went up $100 while their land value went down. Kim Johnson went over their tax bill with them. The board then approved and certified the levy.
Supt. Reggie Engebritson reported that she had met with Medica and they reduced the health insurance for all employees other than teachers (who are with PEIP) from an increase of 21 percent to 14 percent.
Representatives for the teachers from EdMN Local 1406 were on hand for a Level 3 Grievance Hearing dealing with surveillance cameras on buses and in classrooms. Supt. Engebritson said many districts use these cameras, while the EdMN Local 1406 representatives thought this should be negotiated. Their grievance was denied.
An agreement between ISD 2142 and the Mt. Iron/Buhl School District over the use of School Resource Officers was approved.
The board then hired Kellie Hanson as a 1.0 FTE elementary teacher for South Ridge, and Madeline Miller as a 0.5 FTE Title I teacher for SR.
Support staff hired included Christine Olcott as a para for SR, Suzanne Holter as a preschool para for NW, Madeline Miller for Indian Ed. at SR, Christine Holcomb as a bus driver for Cherry, Samantha Schultz as a sub van driver for NW, and Maxine Olson as before/after school program supervisor for NW.
Chase Miller was hired as an assistant boys basketball coach for Cherry, while Randy Lislegard was hired as an assistant football coach for NER.
The termination of Kayla Fawcett as a Title I teacher for SR was approved.
Cherry board member Lynette Zupetz commented on how nice it was to see the Cherry marching band in Duluth's Christmas Parade.
Board member Pat Christensen was given his certificate for completing Phases 1,2,3,4 of the MSBA Training.
The meeting adjourned at 6:30 p.m.

Historic snowstorm hits Duluth with 21.7 inches, while Cook area ONLY received up to 12 inches


Winter is definitely here, thanks to the second huge snowstorm to hit northeastern Minnesota in two weeks. The first snowstorm left six inches on the ground, but it was only a prelude to the snowstorm that will go down in history. That storm came down late last Saturday through Sunday with Duluth getting a reported 21.7 inches, while there were reports of up to 32 inches on the North Shore. A look at the radar coverage showed storm clouds all around Cook, for a while, but the Cook/Orr/Tower area were in for a storm. There were reports of 12 inches or more of snow falling as huge snow piles built up. This storm was ranked as the ninth biggest snowstorm in Duluth's history.
Schools around Duluth were closed on Monday as were many businesses, churches, etc. There were no closings in the Cook/Orr area. The Crane Lake area lucked out as only around two to three inches of snow fell there.
Highway 35 from Hinckley north of Cloquet was a nightmare according to those who drove through it. Their travel time doubled from a normal drive.
The good news is there were no reports, so far, of deaths or injuries. Northlanders are used to snowstorms, so they just bundled up, grabbed their shovels or started their snowblowers and cleared it out. The St. Louis County Highway Dept. did another great job clearing the highways of the county. They worked around the clock to make all county roads passable.
The huge mountain of snow off Vermilion Drive in Cook grew quickly as snow from the streets was piled there.
Life goes on for the hardy North Country residents as they work to clear their sidewalks, driveways and roads. Winter is definitely here and it will be a White Christmas.

Cook/Orr Healthcare District board approves 2020 budget showing $718,880 less profit

The Cook/Orr Healthcare District board at their regular meeting last Tuesday heard several annual reports plus heard the staffing report from Administrator Teresa Debevec showing the need for nursing assistants, physical therapist, rad. techs, housekeeping, dietary and maintenance.
Debevec reported that Karen Baxter has been approved by the St. Louis County Board of Commissioners to fill the open board seat whose term ends on Dec. 31, 2021.
For the month of October, the hospital showed a loss from operations of $103,215 compared to a budgeted loss of $90,841 which lowered the year-to-date profit from operations to a loss of $783,873 compared to a budgeted loss of $497,709. After non-operating income such as the levy were added in, the net income for the month was a loss of $10,682 against a budgeted profit of $15,786. The year-to-date profit was $782,338 against a budgeted profit of $568,550.
The 2020 budget was submitted by Debevec showing revenue up 3 percent from $20,127,786 projected to $20,673,135. For 2019 the forecast for non-operating income is $1,818,712 while for 2020 the amount is $1,481,274 or a drop of $337,438. This means the hospital has a forecasted 2019 profit of $878,064 and for 2020, a forecasted profit of $159,184 or a drop of $718,880. Half of that drop is due to the forecast of $337,438 in other income. The largest increase in expense for 2020 is having the travelers (contracted staffing).
A big reason for the drop in profits is the increase in health insurance. It will go up 14 percent or about $70,000. The hospital is part of the Northeast Service Co-op and because of that they kept the increase to 14 percent instead of approximately 28 percent or a $140,000 increase. The hospital also received a $353,000 grant last year and they don't know if they will get it this year.
Debevec reported the hospital will have a billboard south of Eveleth on Highway 53 by Slumberland.
National Rural Health Day was celebrated at the hospital on Thursday, Nov. 21, with a catered meal from The Crescent, and staff receiving gifts.
Family Night in the Care Center will be Dec. 19 at 6:30 p.m.
The 2020 Annual Plan is being worked on with the main focus being culture, employee engagement, etc.
The pharmacy was inspected by the Board of Pharmacy and no deficiencies were received.
The Plan of Correction for the Care Center was accepted by the Minnesota Dept. of Health.
The board also approved a Planning and Transition Grant.
Marge Hyppa gave the Quality Assurance Report and Compliance Ethics Report.


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