FINANCIAL FAREWELL --After 15 years in charge of the school district's finances, District 196's retiring finance chief Jeff Solomon delivered his final presentation to the school board at their Jan. 7 meeting. His replacement appeared later in the meeting to unveil proposed budget cuts.

ISD 196 proposes cutting 31 teachers and nurses

    School District 196’s new superintendent and finance chief unveiled proposed staffing cuts to the school board at its Jan. 7 meeting. Under the proposal, the district, seeking to avoid a $7 million shortfall in its half-billion dollar budget, would spend about more than $5 million from its reserve funds and cut about 20 teachers and 11 nurses.
   The proposed cuts remained largely unchanged from those proposed to parents and concerned residents participating in focus groups about the cuts last month. Although about 150 parents and concerned residents offered suggestions about the cuts, no changes to the administration’s proposed cuts were apparent when presented to the school board. School staff would be hit hardest by the cuts, with administrators and miscellaneous items taking less of a hit.
   In a presentation to the school board by Superintendent Mary Kreger, school administrators continued laying the groundwork for requesting more money from district voters through a levy request. In addition to the $7 million proposed for this year, the school district is threatening another $18 million in cuts over the next two years if voters don’t approve its levy.
   The proposed cuts include $2.5 million in salaries to classroom staff and nurses. The district has proposed saving another $465,530 by cutting about 12 clerical positions.
   The highest paid district staff, the administrators, would face the least cuts. The district has proposed cutting less than three administrative positions, most of which are currently unfilled. The proposal would save the school district about $348,000, according to the district’s figures. At the recently held focus group meetings, parents said they would rather see administrators cut than teachers and classroom staff.
   The administration has claimed the cuts are necessary because of unfunded government mandates to the school system.

School board re-elects officers

   The School District 196 school board re-elected Jackie Magnuson to the position of school board chair.
   Without discussion, the school board, at its Jan. 7 meeting, unanimously re-elected Magnuson and three other officers to the same positions they held in 2018. Joel Albright was re-elected vice chair; Art Coulson, treasurer; and Sachin Isaacs, clerk. The officers’ terms continue to Dec. 31.

School district braces for cold

   ISD 196 is bracing for temperatures expected to be below zero this week. School officials sent emails and made calls to parents reminding them of the district’s policy regarding school cancellations due to snow and cold.
   Information about school closures is posted on the district’s website: Decisions to cancel or delay the start of school due to snow are made by 5:30 a.m. the day of and are based largely on road conditions and the ability of school buses to complete their routes without significant delays, according to the school district.
    Cold weather cancellations are made earlier, by 6:30 p.m. the night before, according to the district. District 196 closes schools for cold weather if the National Weather Service for 6 a.m. the following morning includes temperatures of 25 degrees below zero or colder or a wind chill temperature of 35 degrees below zero or colder.

DON'T ARGUE WITH THESE GUYS -- You won't win. Eagan High School seniors Ayush Patel and Jason Scheller display their trophy after winning state championship in public forum debate at the state debate championships at the University of Minnesota Jan. 18 and 19. 

Everything is awesome! (or good, but mostly not fair or poor)

EAGAN, MN – Despite tax hikes, vandalism, school district budget deficits, high housing prices, an illegal immigrant allegedly mowing down two people with the minivan where he lived, a deadly bike trail, one of the city’s largest employers slashing jobs, a gasoline spill that left benzene in the groundwater, methamphetamine infiltrating the city by the tens of kilos, children left motherless by a truck driver who allegedly ran a red light at one of the city’s major intersections, the ousting and reinstatement of a city council member by her fellow board members, a professional football organization whose team failed to make the playoffs despite a fancy new headquarters built on what used to be acres of woodland, professional shoplifting rings targeting a local mall, a 3-year-old killed in a foster home, child pornographers and molesters, near drownings in pools at the city’s apartment complexes and even a tiny dog stolen from his home, most of the city residents who responded to a city-commissioned survey rated Eagan a good, safe place to live – although most acknowledged they weren’t paying attention to the local news.
   About two-thirds of the respondents to the survey commissioned by the city, 66 percent, rated Eagan as an excellent place to live, according to the results of the report provided to Eagan city officials. Thirty-three percent rated Eagan a good place to live, and one percent reported it a fair place to live, according to the report.
   The report was the result of a survey of about 1,600 city households to assess the city’s livability based on responses to various criteria such as safety, community involvement, the economy and natural environment. The report was compiled by Boulder, Colorado based National Research Center as part of its National Citizen Survey. A portion of Eagan’s households were mailed survey forms in mid-2018 asking them to rank the city on a variety of criteria with four choices: excellent, good, fair, or poor. The survey was not open for general response. The city picked which households would receive the survey.
   Although 66 percent of households surveyed rated the city an excellent place to live, Eagan households were less enthusiastic about the quality of city-provided services, according to the report. Thirty-one percent rated the overall quality of city services excellent, 58 percent rated them good, and 10 percent of respondents rated them fair.
   Most of the respondents, 86 percent, had not reported a crime to the city’s police department, according to the report.
   The city reported the results on its website, lumping together good and excellent rankings to report high percentages of apparently satisfied residents. The city has not posted to its website a supplemental report comparing the 2018 results to previous years.
   Among the lower rankings in the survey were for the quality of work by the Eagan City Council and the city’s snow plowing. Fourteen percent of respondents ranked the category “Job Done by Eagan City Council” as poor or fair, while 20 percent rated it excellent and 66 percent rated it good.
   Forty-one percent of respondents ranked the quality of snow plowing on city trails and sidewalks as fair or poor, according to the report. Forty-five percent ranked the timeliness of that plowing as fair to poor. Survey respondents were happier with the snow plowing on their neighborhood streets, according to the report. Twenty-seven percent ranked the quality of snow plowing on neighborhood streets as fair or poor. Thirty-four percent ranked the timeliness of that plowing as fair or poor.
   Despite the city’s hefty expenditures on communication media, most respondents replied they never use it. Eighty-four percent of respondents replied they “never” used Eagan Television (ETV). Twenty-three to eighty-one percent reported they never used the city’s recreational activities catalog, the resident newsletter, the city website, the city’s official newspaper, emails from the city, the Nextdoor application used by police to restrict announcements of the city’s crime to geographic areas, the city’s Facebook page or its Twitter posts. The city recently hired a new communications director at an annual salary of about $124,000.
   Most residents surveyed also reported they don’t use the recreational facilities owned and operated by the city. The most frequently used was the Cascade Bay water park, with 39 percent of respondents saying they were aware of the park and had used it. Use of the Eagan Civic Arena, the local ice rink, was reported at 30 percent. Eight percent of respondents said they had used the city’s public access channel.

Eagan restaurant owners charged with tax fraud

    An Eagan couple has been charged with felony sales tax evasion based on allegations they electronically deleted transactions from the cash register system at their Burnsville restaurant, allegedly deleting more than $300,000 from sales records over four years.
  Qiuyun (Sherri) Huang, 35, and Kehui (Max) Yang, 40, of 1492 Woodstone Circle, Eagan, were charged with three counts of felony failure to pay taxes and three counts of felony filing a false or fraudulent tax return, according to Dakota County criminal complaints. The criminal charges stem from an investigation by the Minnesota Department of Revenue of sales records from the Shogun Burnsville restaurant.
  In an apparent sign that tax agents are working undercover by eating at restaurants, Department of Revenue sent auditors to the Eagan couple’s restaurant, Shogun Burnsville, on several occasions in August 2016 to buy meals. The auditors paid for their meals with cash and took receipts from the restaurant, according to the complaint.
  In January 2017, the Department of Revenue returned to the restaurant for an on-site audit. During the audit, the department downloaded data from the restaurant’s point of sale (POS) system. Two of the four purchases DOR auditors had made from the restaurant were allegedly missing and the numbers from those receipts had been assigned to other transactions, according to the complaint.
  “This indicated that receipts were being deleted from the POS system,” the state alleged, “which would result in misreporting and underpaying sales tax for the business.” An analyst reported 2,858 other receipts and 422,579 line items were allegedly missing from the POS database.
  An analyst suspected the data had been deleted by some type of “zapper,” a software application used to delete transactions to underreport income. The case was then referred to the Department of Revenue’s Criminal Investigation Division.
  The criminal division executed search warrants at the restaurant, their accountant’s office and the couple’s home. Investigators seized paper bags full of daily sales receipts, daily POS reports, surveillance camera footage, business records, and computer files.
  Computer forensic analysts determined a sales suppression application called Happy World had been used on the restaurant’s POS system, according to the complaint. Investigators then allegedly matched security footage showing Huang using the POS system at the time the Happy World suppression program was run.
  Investigators allege sales from the restaurant were deleted from 36 of the 40 months examined. During some months, investigators allege, as much as $20,000 in cash sales were deleted from records.
  Employees interviewed allegedly told investigators they were required to find Huang or Yang when a restaurant customer paid cash because only they had access to the cash register to make change.
  Investigators allege Huang and Yang underreported more than $303,000 in restaurant sales between 2014 and June 2017 and underpaid nearly $43,000 in sales taxes.  

Police outrun suspect

    A West St. Paul man was arrested after running from Eagan Police during a traffic stop, according to a Dakota County criminal complaint.
   Joseph Christiansen, 29, of 958 Livingston Ave., W. St. Paul, was charged with fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance following a Jan. 12 traffic stop near the intersection of Town Centre Drive and Yankee Place, according to court records.
   Christiansen was a passenger in the back seat of a car stopped by Eagan police shortly after 4 a.m. Jan. 12 for lane violations and because no license plates were visible to police. Police allege Christiansen fled the car “as officers were removing the occupants from the vehicle,” according to the complaint. Police chased Christiansen on foot, catching up with him when the suspect “lost his balance and fell.”
   Police reported finding a cylinder containing a white powder that field tested positive for heroin in the pocket of Christiansen’s pants, according to court records.

Police investigate meth dealing at Eagan hotel

    Two people are facing criminal charges following an investigation into methamphetamine dealing from an Eagan hotel.
   The charges stem from a September 5, 2018, investigation at an Eagan hotel, according to court records. After agents from the Dakota County Drug Task Force had arrested a suspected methamphetamine dealer at the hotel, a car pulled up next to the suspect’s vehicle and sent her a text asking for her room number.
   Police approached the newly parked car and identified the driver and a passenger.
   The driver, Allison Kroells, 25, of 2789 Spy Glass Drive, Chaska, was charged with fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance, a gross misdemeanor, according to a Dakota County criminal complaint. The charge stems from a glass bubble pipe with alleged drug residue found inside the vehicle, according to court records.
   The passenger, Travis Juno, 34, of 1131 County Road 4, St. Cloud, was charged with two felony counts of fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance.  Police allege Juno was carrying a cigarette pack that contained six pills containing amphetamine and a plastic bag containing a white crystal substance identified by police as 1.09 grams of methamphetamine.
   Police did not release the name of the Eagan hotel or the suspected methamphetamine dealer. 

Cliff Road traffic stop yields pot

  A Minneapolis man is facing a felony drug charge as a result of a traffic stop on Cliff Road last May.
   Zachary Habeck, 21, of 701 6th St. SE, Minneapolis, has been charged with fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance, according to a Dakota County criminal complaint. Habeck was charged as a result of a traffic stop on Cliff Road at Park Center Drive shortly after 6:30 p.m., according to the complaint. Habeck was a passenger in a car pulled over by police for a broken brake light.
   After police stopped the car, police smelled marijuana, “removed Habeck from the vehicle and, while conducting a pat search, asked Habeck if he had anything on him,” according to court records. “Habeck responded that officers should just arrest him.”
   During a search of the car, police allegedly found a backpack in the passenger seat “containing a large amount of a green leafy substance, paraphernalia, and documents with Habeck’s name on it[sic],” according to the complaint.
   The green leafy substance, weighed in at 112.61 grams, field-tested positive for THC,  the active ingredient of marijuana, according to the complaint.
   Habeck was summonsed to appear in Dakota County district court Feb. 25. 

Highway 13 police chase leads to drug arrest

   A Le Sueur man is facing felony charges after allegedly leading Eagan police on a late night chase.
   Michael Gardner, 38, of 219 N. 54th St., Le Sueur, was charged with two felonies: fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle and fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance following a Jan. 2 chase, according to a Dakota County criminal complaint.
   An Eagan police officer was patrolling a residential area with a history of vehicle break-ins shortly before 1:30 a.m. Jan. 2 when he spotted the car Gardner was driving, according to court records. When the police officer attempted to get behind the car to run the license plate, police allege, “the vehicle quickly accelerated and made a series of evasive turns.”
   When the officer signaled for the car to stop, according to the complaint, it moved to the shoulder of the road, but continued driving, then accelerated and pulled back onto Highway 13. Several other police cars joined the pursuit, but the fleeing car continued. Police then pulled alongside the fleeing car and performed a tactical maneuver that caused the fleeing car to spin out, then boxed the car in to prevent it from fleeing.
   Police arrested Gardner as he got out of the car and discovered three active warrants for his arrest, according to court records. During a search incident to Gardner’s arrest, police reported finding a small bag containing a white crystal substance in Gardner’s sock. The crystal field tested positive for 1.35 grams of methamphetamine, according to the criminal complaint.
Michael Gardner