The Le Mars Community School Board of Education has adopted a resolution to consider participating in the Instructional Support Program for five years and set a public hearing for 7:30 p.m. Monday, June 9.
The instructional support levy (ISL) program allows the district a source of raising revenue with a mix of property tax and income surtax for the district's instructional support program.
This is the second time the board has sought the instructional support levy. In December 2007, the board sought to implement the ISL for the 2008-09 school year to replace state funding which would be lost due to the decline in enrollment of 81 students in the 2007-08 school year. District patrons petitioned for an election which was held in March 2008. The issue was defeated with 1,708 no votes to to 1,282 yes votes.
As stated in the resolution, the board can request funding for up to 10 percent of the total regular program district cost for the budget year and moneys received under Iowa Code section 257.14 as a budget adjustment for the budget year. For example, this year the board could have collected a maximum of $1.4 million on the total general fund budget of the school district.
Board members discussed at length whether the levy should be only a property tax or a mix of property tax and income surtax, deciding on the mix rather than all property tax.
Board president Mark Stelzer said he'd heard about the the burden of property tax on the elderly, which led him to feel a mix would be the better option.
Board member Patrick Murphy said he was coming back to his original position, that it has to be nearly a 50-50 mix of state income surtax and property tax.
"I hesitate to impose the bulk on real estate taxes. The general concensus is to keep property taxes low," Murphy said of input he has received.
Stelzer pointed out that even with this increase in real estate tax, "we're still lower than quite a number of the surrounding districts by quite a lot and lower than the state average, again by quite a lot."
Superintendent Dr. Todd Wendt pointed out the district is $2 lower in property tax than the state average.
Board member Dan Smith said he had been approached by commercial property owners and ag land owners, concerned about planning for the tax in their businesses.
Monday's resolution required the board to state if a mix of sources would be used for the ISL, but did not require the specific numbers.
According to Stelzer, on an average home valued at $100,000, the property tax would be about $20.
Board members said the flexibility of deciding the funding needed annually is to the taxpayers' advantage, as the rate can be adjusted each year, rather than be set at the same level for the five-year period.
"As a board, we're trying to to spread the burden as equally as possible," said Stelzer. He also indicated he did not want to go through more program and teacher cuts as the board did this spring to make up for a reduction in state aid for the 2008-09 school year due to the decline in enrollment of 81 students in the 2007-08 school year.
The next step in the process is the hearing on June 9, where the public has the opportunity to give its input on the resolution. Following that hearing the board will adopt the resolution to participate in the instruction support program.
The last day for district patrons to petition for an election is July 7. If a petition is presented, a second public hearing would need to be held and an election date set.