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Superintendent News & Views

Dissolution Q&A, Part 3

August 27, 2017
David Hill - Gladbrook-Reinbeck Superintendent , Reinbeck Courier

This is the third column in a series which provides answers to questions about the proposed dissolution of the Gladbrook-Reinbeck Community School District that were submitted by interested citizens through an online form and special telephone line which allowed district patrons to leave a recorded message to ask a question.

I want to express my appreciation to those who submitted one or more questions for this column as well as the previous two Q&A columns. If you missed the first two columns in this series, you'll want to be sure check those out on my blog at rebelsupt.blogspot.com. Now, on with this week's questions and answers!

Q: I RENT A HOME IN REINBECK AND I DON'T OWN ANY PROPERTY. I'VE HEARD REINBECK PROPERTY TAXES WILL GO UP IF THE SCHOOL DISSOLVES, BUT THIS DOESN'T AFFECT ME. I DO HAVE TO PAY AN INCOME SURTAX EACH APRIL WHEN I FILE MY INCOME TAXES. WHAT IS THE INCOME SURTAX IN THE DIKE SCHOOL DISTRICT? WOULD THE INCOME SURTAX GO UP OR DOWN FOR ME?

A: The caller is correct to state that their apartment in Reinbeck would be located in the Dike-New Hartford school district if the "YES" vote prevails. Dike-New Hartford's current income surtax is 8%, which is higher than the 3% income surtax currently paid by Gladbrook-Reinbeck's taxpayers. Here is a comparison of the fiscal year 2018 income surtax rates for all of the districts that would be affected by the dissolution: NORTH TAMA: 8%; GMG: 10%; GRUNDY CENTER: 6%; HUDSON: 2%; DIKE-NEW HARTFORD: 8%.

As I stated in my column on property tax rates, school boards establish their tax rates (including income surtax rates) ANNUALLY as part of setting their budgets; therefore, these numbers could (and likely would) change over time.

Also, it may not be correct to state that higher property taxes don't affect you as a renter. When a landlord's property tax rates are higher, this additional cost may result in higher rent for tenants. Everyone is a consumer whether they own or rent property. When commercial property taxes are higher for area businesses, this additional cost may be reflected in higher retail prices on goods and services.

Q: I'VE SEEN A LOT OF "VOTE NO" SIGNS POSTED. IS THIS AN APPROPRIATE USE OF PUBLIC FUNDS?

A: The signs you have noticed were NOT paid for with public funds. They have been privately funded and privately distributed.

Q: IS THE G-R SCHOOL DISTRICT CURRENTLY IN FINANCIAL TROUBLE?

A: The district's CURRENT financial health is good, but we do have reason to be concerned about the future. The Iowa Association of School Boards (IASB) recommends an Unspent Authorized Budget (UAB) ratio between 5% and 15%, and G-R's ratio is even higher than 15% - that's a real positive. A UAB ratio that is between 0% and 5% is major cause for concern, and a negative UAB ratio is illegal. At the point of a negative UAB, the state requires schools to develop a workout plan and if the workout plan is not successful, the state may forcibly dissolve a district with a negative UAB ratio. Gladbrook-Reinbeck's current UAB indicates that the district has more than adequate spending authority at the present time.

Q: IF THE DISTRICT ISN'T IN FINANCIAL TROUBLE, WHY DID YOU HAVE BUDGET CUTS?

A: Nearly every Iowa school district, with the exception of a few fast-growing districts, has been forced to make budget cuts in recent years. This is primarily due to several consecutive years of inadequate funding from the state.

G-R has developed five-year financial projections with help from renowned school finance experts. These projections show the district's UAB ratio (described in the previous question) declining to about 5% five years from now, primarily due to inadequate state funding and because of the same declining enrollment trend that most Iowa districts are experiencing.

While 5% is still in the "healthy" range, we are concerned about the projected drop in spending authority which could negatively affect opportunities for our students in future years. Making budget cuts now will help the school to be financially viable for many years into the future. Our priority is to select budget cuts that will have minimal effect on students. This will ensure G-R's financial viability for the long term.

Q: SOMEONE TOLD ME G-R ONLY HAS A FEW YEARS LEFT BEFORE IT IS FORCED BY THE STATE TO DISSOLVE DUE TO FINANCES. IS THIS TRUE? HOW MANY YEARS DOES G-R HAVE LEFT, FINANCIALLY SPEAKING?

A: Your school board and administration are committed to ensuring that G-R remains a financially viable district for many years into the future. If we are responsible in our decision making and continue to look for savings opportunities, we believe that Gladbrook-Reinbeck will be here for many years to comefar into the foreseeable future.

Q: HOW IS IT THAT YOU COULN'T AFFORD TO KEEP THE GLADBROOK BUILDING OPEN, BUT YOU CAN AFFORD TO EXPAND AND REMODEL THE DAYCARE BUILDINGS IN BOTH TOWNS?

A: G-R's greatest area of financial concern is our GENERAL FUND. The primary purpose of closing a building was to allow for efficiencies to directly affect the general fund. Funds to remodel and expand the Crayon Corner Learning Center and Little Rebels Learning Center don't come from the general fund they come from funds which legally can only be used for facilities projects and a few other limited uses.

The G-R School Board is making investments in both of the daycare/preschool facilities because both centers have expressed the need for additional space to meet the needs of students. The board has voted to provide $35,000 for the proposed remodeling of the Crayon Corner Learning Center in Gladbrook this is 100% of the amount requested by Crayon Corner. The board has voted to provide $180,000 for the proposed project at the Little Rebels Learning Center this is roughly 1/3 of the amount needed for the proposed expansion.

We're proud to have Crayon Corner and Little Rebels as part of the Gladbrook-Reinbeck educational system these centers represent the FUTURE of our district!

Q: HAS A SCHOOL DISTRICT IN IOWA EVER BEEN DISSOLVED BEFORE?

A: Yes, but not in this way. A handful of very small Iowa districts have been dissolved by voters based on a recommendation of the district's own school board because they were just too small to meet student needs. A few other Iowa districts have been dissolved by the state due to financial difficulties. A dissolution process initiated by a group of district citizens had never happened prior to May, 2015 here at Gladbrook-Reinbeck.

Q: WHY DOES THE BOARD WANT TO DISSOLVE THE SCHOOL DISTRICT? G-R IS A GREAT SCHOOL!

A: The school board does NOT want to dissolve the school district. In fact, the board recently passed a resolution stating it is unanimously opposed to dissolution and of the opinion that a "NO" vote is appropriate in the upcoming election.

The school board cited various reasons for its opinion, including the likely closing of additional school buildings, the elimination of about 100 teaching and support staff jobs, and the loss of high-quality programs and services offered by the district. G-R's record of outstanding academic, athletic and fine arts accomplishments while maintaining one of the lowest school property tax rates in the region is also cited as a reason for the school board's opinion.

You are welcome to join the conversation by leaving comments on my blog at rebelsupt.blogspot.com and/or following me on Twitter at @DavidRobertHill.

 
 

 

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