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LCS board restarts process to adopt ISL

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

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.

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hopefully this vote doesn't come with the cattiness of the previous vote.

i, personally, see a lot of money that could be saved by closing kissinger, and i don't think i'm alone in that belief.

i have respect for merrill as a community, but efficiency and thriftiness dictate bringing those children to lemars for elementary school.

-- Posted by swimorsink on Wed, May 28, 2008, at 7:04 PM

In a way, I hope it doesn't come to a vote. If the ISL doesn't come to a vote it ends after 5 years. If it does come to a vote, it may pass and last for 10 years. I think the district has other options for raising funds without a vote but they are trying to avoid putting all of the pressure on property taxes.

-- Posted by thinktwice on Thu, May 29, 2008, at 8:32 AM

Why don't we close of of the 3 elementary schools in Le Mars, Merrill has a lot of community pride with their school. It is a selling point for oue town to contine to grow to have the school there.

-- Posted by educate r kids on Thu, May 29, 2008, at 11:02 AM

By closing Kissenger it will result in a couple of things, more students open enrolling into the Hinton school district, LCHS class room numbers increasing and no room for the special needs students. And to add, I think there are plenty of families in Merrill and the rural area that would disagree with swimorsink.

-- Posted by mdmab on Thu, May 29, 2008, at 11:28 AM

When I was in 4TH grade I went to old Central and that year they closed down it so we all had to go to different schools. I really feel for the kids at Kissinger but when you only have so many kids at Kissinger and more kids at the other schools I feel that they should come to LeMars. It is costing the school so much to keep that school open and with the gas prices. Maybe if the high school was in Merril then I could see your point but its not in Merrill its in LeMars. How many kids in Kissinger are in each grade? There is no win win for no one things happen and it sticks.

-- Posted by longtimeresident on Sun, Jun 1, 2008, at 8:03 AM

I do have one more thing to add what about that wells building that the school bought could we not have the special needs kids go there? Just an opion

-- Posted by longtimeresident on Sun, Jun 1, 2008, at 8:06 AM

The special needs children are integrated into classes during the day. Having them at the new district offices is probably not an option. I suggest doing your homework before offering solutions.

-- Posted by mdmab on Mon, Jun 2, 2008, at 2:15 PM

If there is any confusion about the proposed tax itself or the timeline involved, check out the KLEM website and click the link for "LeMars Board of Education April 28, 2008" in the lower right corner. Hopefully KLEM keeps this link available until July.

One thing struck me as I listened to the school board's discussion. It seems they are so focused on collecting more the money from the taxpayers that they haven't stopped to consider another reason the previous vote failed. Maybe it is not about the $40 or $80 that would be paid by the average household each year for either 5 or 10 years. Should the board and Dr. Wendt not at least consider that the failure of the ISL in March was due in part to a DISSATISFACTION with the status quo in our school system? Perhaps many of the 1,700 citizens who voted against the ISL were actually voting against current administrative practices, the emphasis on sports over academics, curriculum choices, or even bad school lunches. Who knows! All I'm saying is they should look beyond the cash and address some real trust issues before trying to push this through again so soon.

One final note---obviously the board and Dr. Wendt aren't overly concerned about placing an extra burden on the taxpayers. I wonder how much each of the school special elections costs. So far in 2008 we've had school related votes in February (SILO), March (ISL) and one scheduled for September (school board & possibly ISL again). Why can't they look to elections in June and November when the polls are already open. It would save money and be more convenient for the voters.

-- Posted by FoodForThought on Tue, Jun 3, 2008, at 3:53 AM

RE: mdmab

You know I didn't think of that you are right. When I talked to my husband he suggested the tk room at kluchuhlm school that room will be empty this year. Yes I am very intersted in our childern that need special help! I was one of them at one time so I do know the importance of our childern.

-- Posted by longtimeresident on Tue, Jun 3, 2008, at 9:25 AM

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