Two questions ask voters for increased funding
By Jane Myhra
Two referendum questions were approved by the Iola-Scandinavia School Board at a special meeting Thursday, June 23.
The two questions will be presented to voters in the Nov. 8 general election.
The first referendum question asks voters to approve $2 million in general obligation bonds for the purpose of paying the cost of a school improvement program. The improvements include renovation and remodeling of classrooms for safety, energy efficiency and learning space modernization, technology upgrades, roof repairs, parking lot, athletic facility and site improvements, HVAC upgrades; and acquisition of furnishings, fixtures, equipment and vehicles.
The second referendum question asks voters to approve a five-year non-recurring referendum to sustain educational programming, student opportunities and operations. If passed, this referendum will allow the school district to exceed the revenue limit by up to the amounts of $600,000 in the 2016-17 school year; by $650,000 in the 2017-18; school year by $800,000 in 2018-19, by $950,000 in 2019-20; and by $1.6 million in 2020-21.
Only residents of the I-S School District may vote on the referendum question.
Without the referendum options, Business Manager Sarah Thiel said the district will face a $460,000 deficit in the coming school year.
Even if the referendum questions are approved by voters, she said the school district may need to dig into its fund balance by about $500,000 over the next five years if assumptions hold true. It was the district’s goal to maintain a level mill rate over the course of the next five years.
“I do not feel comfortable going to referendum and still having a deficit,” said Board President Kristen Hoyord. “I would be more comfortable paying higher taxes and sending my children to a district with high quality teachers.”
“We need to think beyond the needs of select groups and provide options that meet the needs of the community as a whole,” Thiel said.
“If we do nothing or if the referendum questions don’t pass, there will have to be substantial cuts,” she said. “We need to find a balance in asking for an amount that meets the needs of the districts projected shortfall while being as fiscally responsible to all of the taxpayers in the district.”
District Administrator David Dyb listed some of the reasons for the referendum, including replacement of a 1964 boiler and repairs to 30 year old roofs in the school buildings.
“It’s a lack of functionality impacting quality of education,” said High School Principal Sara Anderson.
“If the state doesn’t do something shortly, every school district in the state will go to referendum,” said board member Jeff Oppor.
The board’s decision was summed up by board member Mike Koles.
“We’re asking for a referendum and we still may have cuts to make, unless the state takes leadership,” he said.