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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Alta district receives feds' rural schools grant

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Board passes school tax resolution

School funds were one of the issues discussed by the Alta School Board during their October 13 meeting.

Word was received that the district will be receiving a federal grant, the Board passed a resolution calling for a vote of the SILO (School Infrastructure Local Option) sales tax and the recent state budget cuts were discussed.

Alta School superintendent Fred Maharry informed the board that the district is the recipient of a $20,435 grant from the Rural Education Achievement Program. This is a grant from the federal government's U.S. Department of Education.

"This money is for small rural schools to provide the best learning opportunities possible," Maharry said. "I'm very pleased about it."

The district applied for the grant in June and the amount of money received is based on the number of students in the districts applying, among other factors.

Maharry said this money will be used to off-set the state of Iowa's recent cuts of aid promised to public schools around the state.

"It looks to me like we're going to lose in excess of $50,000," Maharry said of the Alta district. "It's going to impact us, no doubt about it. We're going to have to be very careful where we spend our money the rest of the year.

"But we're going to have to be careful that we don't take away our students' learning opportunities. It's difficult to make cuts in the middle of the year. We're just going to have to be very careful with our funds."

In keeping with the issue of funding, the Board put its backing behind the proposed SILO (School Infrastructure Local Option) sales tax in Buena Vista County.

Last month the Storm Lake Community Schools passed a resolution calling for a county-wide vote on the issue, and in passing their own, the Alta district is showing their support for the initiative.

"We wanted to make sure that people in the community know we support the issue," Maharry said. "I think it's going to make a big difference as far as bringing our facilities up to date, reducing property taxes and purchasing technology and buses in the future. I think that's critical."

In passing their own resolution, the Alta district had to craft its own revenue purpose statement, which outlines what the school will use the possible SILO funds for.

In their statement, the district has chosen to keep its intentions very broad right now.

The statement reads, The money received from the local sales and services tax for school infrastructure may be spent for any one or more of the following purposes: To provide funds to build and furnish a new school building or buildings; to build and furnish addition(s) to school buildings in the District and to remodel, repair, improve, and equip these buildings; to remodel, repair and improve the school buildings in the District; to procure and improve sites, to furnish and equip district facilities; for demolition work; and to open roads to schoolhouses and buildings.

Monies may be used for emergency repairs to respond to natural or other disasters, such as fire, wind damage, flood; unanticipated mechanical, plumbing, structural, roof, electrical system repairs or failures; environmental remediation; or to respond to changes in demographics that require construction of additions or improvements to school buildings or new school buildings.

Monies may be used for the purchase, lease or lease- purchase of equipment (including transportation and recreation equipment) as authorized by law, to implement and install energy conservation measures, sharing or rental of facilities, and to lease-purchase school buildings.

Monies may be used for property tax relief, for the payment of principal and interest or retirement of general obligation bonds issued for school infrastructure purposes and loan agreements.

Board members recalled that the last time the SILO issue was brought to a vote, it passed in the Alta district, and they'd like to see that happen again.

The next step is making Alta-area residents aware of the issue.

"We think there's a lot of potential," Maharry said. "A goal of ours is now to explain to the community how the money will be used."

Other board items:

Almost all of the new middle school project is completed and a dedication ceremony is slated to be held on Sunday, Oct. 26 from 1-3 p.m.

All of the middle school exploratory classes have finally been moved to the new building, with the exception of music. The gym is close to completion with only a few small items still needing to be taken care of. The concession stand is an issue the board will have to contemplate. As of right now there is only a shell of a facility and there is no sink in it.

Principal Maxine Lampe reported that the transition from the high school to the middle school is going quite well.

"It's been wonderful," she said. "The kids are so resilient. I really think it's a facility that you'll be proud of, and not only you, but the community, too. I think it's really going to enhance the learning of our students and that's why we're here."

The Board also reviewed last year's Iowa Tests of Basic Skills reports and found that students had improved but not as much has had hoped for.

The scores show that the students are slightly above the national average, but slightly below the state average. In reviewing those scores, the Board has decided that strengthening the reading skills of Alta students will once again be one of its top goals.

The Iowa Department of Education will be making a site visit at Alta on Nov. 11-13.

Officials will talk to students, parents and staff members to get their opinions on the district and then provide feedback to the school. These visits are done in districts around the state every five years.

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