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From bond sale, district taxpayers get a break

August 7, 2012
By Jenny Kirk , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - Good news came in the form of an announcement that district taxpayers would be receiving a future debt service savings in the amount of $2,832,256, Marshall Public School board members learned Monday at the regularly scheduled meeting.

After waiting months for market conditions to align with the board's parameters, which reflected a minimum of $2.25 million in future savings and a 7.8 percent in present value of the refunded debt service, Ehlers representative Joe Sutter said the right time had arrived for the crossover refinancing.

"Good things came to taxpayers last week," Sutter said.

The results of the bond sale, which included a present value of 9.8 percent, will reduce the district's debt service levies for taxes payable, beginning in 2014 until 2023, by an average of $283,000 per year.

"We rarely see it as high as that," Sutter said about the percentage rate. "But it was a very good day to sell bonds. People really wanted to buy your bonds."

The district had eight separate bidders on Thursday, the day of the sale. Sutter said that was fortunate because interest rates rose the following day, likely taking significant savings away. Later in the meeting, the board eagerly adopted the resolution ratifying the sale of the refunding bonds presented, making the transaction official.

"This is not something extra for the school district," Sutter said. "This is just for the taxpayers."

In a presentation from Taher Food Service representatives Mark Brodersen, vice president of operations, and Lori Fruin, food service director for MPS, board members were informed about upcoming changes and challenges to the school lunch program. Not only has MPS been forced to increase school lunches by 10 cents, which the board approved in June, using a government-mandated formula tool to establish prices, the district is also facing daily requirement challenges.

"There are a lot of things that the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) is asking us to do with school lunches," Brodersen said. "In the past, kids have had to have three of the five components (protein, vegetable, fruit, grain and dairy or milk) to be a reimbursable meal. But now there are specific units that a kid is allowed to have."

The new requirements include a larger portion of fruits and vegetables, more whole grains and a limited amount of meat or meat alternatives. Students will now be required to have one-half cup of fruits or vegetables on their tray in order for it to count as a full meal. The change, Brodersen said, may take some getting used to for students, especially since they've been trained to put the largest portion, originally a protein, in the largest spot on their tray.

"Now, the government wants vegetables to be put in the biggest spot, followed by fruits," he said. "Then, proteins, grains and milk are to be divided up on the three smaller spots on the tray.

"Initially, at least one-half of grains offered must be whole grain-rich. By 2014-15, all grains we offer will have to be whole grain. Only two grain-based desserts are also allowed per week."

During the transition, Brodersen expects some resistance, but he's hopeful that with training and education, students, parents and the community will accept the new meal plans.

"We hope everyone can stay positive about it," he said. "But I'm worried that we're going to fill dumpsters and not tummies."

The new guidelines also reflect a caloric maximum, based on age, as well as minimum requirements, adding to the challenge. The daily amount for students in grades K-5, based on the average for a 5-day week, is 550-650 calories. For students in grades 6-8, the calorie requirements fall between 600-700, while students in grades 9-12 have a 750-850 calorie gage.

In response to several board members' comments, Brodersen said he was also concerned about many of the students, especially athletes who need to consume a higher level of calories when they're training and competing.

"There's only 200 calories between a kindergartner and a high schooler," he said. "I doubt 800 calories is going to fill up a football player. We'll still have the ala carte, but we just don't want the shift of kids side-stepping the main line and buying ala carte."

Brodersen said that Taher has worked diligently to create delicious and nutritious recipes which align with the new guidelines, but that the vendor has also tried to keep many of the favorites. Alongside some of the new recipes, Taher will continue offering popular items such as salads, pizza and wraps for students to purchase.

With the knowledge that changes were on the horizon, Taher also implemented many of the soon-to-be requirements already.

"We've had a fruit and veggie bar for a number of years," he said. "That's been quite successful."

MPS has also been supportive of the Farm to School program, which utilizes local produce in the school lunches, follows the Food4Life menu guidelines and has worked to lower sodium amounts. The Taher menu has also been trans fat free since 2007.

"Taher is already on track," Brodersen said. "We're up for the challenge."

In addition to approval of the school board policy modifications and the confidential employees master agreement for 2012-2014, the board also approved personnel requests, including Theresa McCoy, who is replacing Tom Critchley in the classroom, Jeff Hansen, who is replacing Michelle Schrantz as assistant principal at Marshall Middle School, Vera Weber, who will be the new technology integration coordinator, and Susie McCoy, who will be taking over for Alison Krysel in the classroom.

Note: The MPS board filing period remains open until 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14. Three candidates have submitted applications so far.



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