Kim Ukura has served as the editor of the Morris Sun Tribune since August 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota, Morris in 2008 with degrees in English and journalism. She earned a master's degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 2010. Prior to returning to Morris to work at the Sun Tribune, she worked in trade publishing.
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MORRIS - About 20 county residents used the Stevens County Truth in Taxation hearing on Monday night to grill the Board of Commissioners and county employees about budget items both big and small. At a meeting before the TNT hearing, the board of commissioners passed their 2012 budget. The $12.3 million dollar budget has an increase in expenditures of about 3.5 percent (around $153,000, not including the increased debt service payments for the courthouse remodel project), and an overall levy increase of 7.22 percent.
MORRIS - The Stevens County Board of Commissioners passed a $12.3 million budget with a 7.22 percent levy increase at a meeting on Monday night. The county budget for 2012 includes an increase in expenditures of about 3.5 percent over the 2011 budget, an increase from about $11.8 million in 2011 to $12.3 million in 2012. The budget also includes $6.1 million in revenues, including anticipated County Program Aid. Of the 7.22 percent total levy increase, about 6.12 percent comes from increased debt service payments and an anticipated loss in County Program Aid from the state.
MORRIS - The Morris City Council approved a tax levy of approximately $1.25 million for 2012, a zero percent increase from 2011, at their meeting on Tuesday. The council will wait to pass the final budget until their meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 27, when City Manager Blaine Hill will be able to present a revised budget that reflects the results of union negotiations. Mayor Sheldon Giese and council members Jeff Miller, Bill Storck and Twig Webster voted in favor of the tax levy. Council member Matt Carrington was not at Tuesday's meeting.
MORRIS - Analyzing data and coming up with a clear-cut message for what it means about students can be a tricky business. All three administrators in the Morris Area School District - Superintendent Scott Monson, High School Principal Mike Coquyt and Elementary School Principal Brad Korn - cautioned that different tests from different years comparing different groups of students can be hard to summarize into a simple, single-paragraph assessment about how Morris Area students are performing.
MORRIS - When Morris Area choir director John Kleinwolterink first heard a choral arrangement of "Lamentations of Jeremiah," a musical interpretation of the Book of Lamentations, he didn't like it and didn't think it would work for his students. After borrowing the music to try with a group, Kleinwolterink said he's found that students are really drawn to the piece, which challenges them to express emotion through the notes rather than through the lyrics - the piece is written in Latin. "It's exciting to hear that even I can learn something," said Kleinwolterink.
In part two of our three part series about assessments and standardized tests in the Morris Area School District, we'll explore how data from various assessments are currently used in the district and how they might be used in the future. MORRIS - Throughout the year, students in the Morris Area School District take a variety of state- and district-wide tests designed to assess student progress. Students finished their first round of a new assessment tool, Measures of Academic Progress, in October and will repeat the tests in January and May.
MORRIS - Big changes to the property tax system earlier this year left local officials certain taxes were going to go up, but unsure about by how much and who would pay the most. Now that the more than 7,000 Truth in Taxation notices have been mailed out in Stevens County, residents have a better idea of what their tax burden for next year will be.
MORRIS - Although distracted drivers and high speeds haven't caused any serious accidents in front of the elementary school and high school, safety concerns prompted the Morris Police Department to take a proactive approach in the form of dynamic speed signs along the road. The two signs, sitting on Columbia Avenue between South Street and Green River Road, were purchased with leftover money from a federal Safe Routes to School grant and have, so far, helped slow drivers in the area.
MORRIS - What can the Morris Area School District do to take a stronger stance against bullying? That was one question posed by Cali Lebrija, a parent of seven children who are attending or will be attending school in the district, during the visitor comments time during the School Board's meeting on Monday night. Lebrija told the board she was concerned about what she sees as an increase in bulling, particularly at the high school, citing instances she's seen or heard about related to name-calling, pushing and stolen backpacks.
MORRIS - The Morris Area School Board received a clean audit and good news about the district's financial status at their meeting Monday night; however, delays in state aid payments may leave the district - and all other districts across the state - with cash flow challenges going forward, explained Brian Stavenger, a certified public accountant and partner with Eide Bailly, during his presentation of the firm's annual audit.