‘Is district asking for enough?’
By Jane Myhra
The public’s response to a proposed referendum was a bit of a surprise to administrators of the Iola-Scandinavia School District.
At a public presentation Monday, March 21, the presenters expected questions. They did not expect the public to question “Is the district asking for enough?”
“We are asking for the minimum amount to get priority projects done,” said Business Manager Sarah Thiel.
“We have great facilities, but they need upgrading,” said District Administrator David Dyb.
He said it would cost about $4.5 million to completely upgrade the district’s facilities in the next 10 years.
“The board has done a great job of providing a great education and still staying within our means,” Dyb said.
School Board President Kristen Hoyord said among the projects not addressed by the referendum include upgrades to the track and other athletic fields.
Dyb noted the I-S School District is in a good position for a referendum, with its debt scheduled to be paid by 2020.
“Other districts have more structured debt and are already paying on referendums and looking at other potential referendums,” he said.
“We are being fairly conservative,” Thiel said, noting she used conservative numbers to project costs for the next five years. “If things don’t change at the state level, our projections should be close.”
The proposed referendum would be presented to voters as two questions.
The first is $2 million for capital projects and maintenance needs that have been postponed due to budget reductions. Debt payments for principal would be structured to begin when current debt expires.
The first referendum projects include: $400,000 to repave the high school parking lot and pave the new access road; $100,000 to pave and repair the elementary parking lot and playgrounds; $360,000 to replace four buses (two in 2017 and two in 2019); $150,000 to replace two boilers in service since 1964; $100,000 to replace outdated technology; and $300,000 for roof repair/replacement at the middle/high school.
The second part is a non-recurring referendum to allow the district to exceed revenue limits for the next five school years. This would include $200,000 in 2016-17, $300,000 in 2017-18 and $350,000 for the next three years.
“The board needs to decide what to do depending on the outcome of the referendum election. Scenarios are being considered and will be discussed further at upcoming meetings,” Thiel said.
“If the second portion is not passed, would it affect class offerings?” was another question voiced by the public at the open meeting.
“It will be a tough discussion for the board,” said school board member Mike Koles.
“We are already committed to maintaining staffing levels through 2017,” Thiel said. “(If the referendum is not approved) we could dip into the fund balance, but once you dig into that, it’s really difficult to get that back.”
She noted the I-S School District is currently at a recommended 25 to 30 percent fund balance, which is used to avoid short-term borrowing.