In many cases for local governments, public hearings come and go with few if any comments. Monday’s hearing on a proposed renewal of a Centerville Community School District’s tax was an exception.
For roughly an hour, a conversation ensued about whether the district is doing enough to be transparent and the proposed renewal that comes amidst millions of dollars in ongoing construction projects.
The district has several different funds, each restricted in its own way in what the money can go toward.
Discussed Monday was the instructional support levy, which receives tax dollars from property and income in the district. It supports the educational function of a district, such as staff salaries.
It’s currently in place but expires after the 2020-21 school year. The resolution was to extend it five years beyond that, beginning with the 2021-22 school year.
The goal, board members said during Monday’s public hearing, was to gain about $100,000 per year which would be used to give raises to the district’s non-certified staff, such as classroom aides, bus drivers, etc.
With the increase, board members said those staff members could see 50-cents or more per hour, each year.
By extending it for five years, the board avoids a public election — which is required if the levy is extended for 10 years.
The current levy takes 8%, with 1% coming from an income surtax and 7% coming from property tax. The new levy would allow the district to go up to 10%, with the amount coming from property tax remaining the system and the amount from income surtax going to three% of the total.
The arrangement means the increase is seen by those earning income in the district and would not affect property taxes.
Citizens questioned the format of the public notice that was published in advance of the public hearing, which board president Marty Braster pledged they would look into.
During the hearing, the district’s projects at Lakeview Elementary School was questioned, with a resident asking if the district could even afford them.
Board members stated about five years ago, the district was in financial constraints but has since come out of it and is in the position to take on the projects it is currently.
Additionally, the projects were all discussed in depth at open meetings, board members contended against allegations that projects were being taken on without public approval.
“It’s not a hidden thing,” board member Mike Thomas said. “We meet here several times a month, and it’s all openly discussed about where we’re headed and why. Honestly, if you look at what we’re doing, we’re consolidating our students in one nice new building and we have closed ... one building already, and we’re going to close Central Ward [Elementary School], which needs a lot of work.
“It’s a cost-saving measure is what it is. You got to spend money to save money, is what I’m saying.”
The school board did ultimately approve the levy renewal resolution, contingent upon advice of legal counsel. Citizens can petition for the matter to proceed to an election within 28 days of Monday’s action.
In other action:
— The district approved awarding Joiner Construction, of Plano, the bid for water system improvements at Lakeview Elementary School. The bid was for $169,292.50 and was the only bid to be submitted. The bid was about $21,000 higher than the engineer’s estimate for the project.
— The board approved entering into an agreement with the city of Centerville for a school resource officer, the same as their previous arrangements but the agreement is renewed yearly. The school district pays for 75% of the officer’s salary, which is estimated to be about $65,459.63. The city pays the remaining share, which is estimated to be $21,819.88.
— An athletic sharing agreement with Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont was approved for the upcoming school year for girls soccer.
Kyle Ocker can be reached at email@example.com or by calling the newsroom at 641-856-6336. Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.