Alta-Aurelia to vote on reorganization of the districts

Monday, August 21, 2017

Voters in the Aurelia and Alta school districts will vote on the reorganization of the two districts into one district at the Sept. 12 special school election.

Two propositions will be on the ballot. The first one, “Reorganization Ballot Proposition A” is to approve the reorganization of the Alta Community School District and the Aurelia Community School District to become the newly formed Alta-Aurelia Community School District.

The second one, “One-Cent Sales Tax Revenue Purpose Statement Ballot Proposition B”, is to approve the Revenue Purpose Statement for the use of funds received by the school district for the expenditures allowed in law. Currently, both Alta and Aurelia have separate Revenue Purpose Statements, and these would become invalid with the newly formed district, so this needs to be approved by the public for the newly formed Alta-Aurelia Community School District.

This is not a new tax. The school is already receiving the funds from the statewide penny tax (which is formally called the State of Iowa Secure an Advanced Vision for Education fund or SAVE), and it uses these funds to purchase computers and other forms of educational technology, buses, small vehicles, maintain buildings and grounds, replace roofs, and pay for remodeling, renovations, and construction projects. By using the dollars from the statewide penny for these projects, the school is able to keep property taxes low for its patrons.

If voters approve the reorganization, it would take effect in the 2018-19 school year.

The terms of current Aurelia School Board members Jen Kaskey and Dan Winterhof expire this year, as do the terms of Alta School Board members Greg Kueny and Gigi Nelson, so these positions will also be on the Sept. 12 ballot.

Alta and Aurelia began sharing high school athletic programs in the summer of 2010, and academic whole grade sharing began in the fall of 2011, with grades 9-12 housed in Alta, grades 6-8 in Aurelia, and each town maintaining a PK-5 school. In the fall of 2016, the districts began sharing Grade 5, hosted in Aurelia.

The two districts have seen many positive results from their whole grade sharing and view reorganization as the next step for the following reasons:

When districts are sharing, the contract can be undone by a vote of the school boards.

Reorganization eliminates any reservations about separating in the future. This creates a long-term, stable environment for students, parents and faculty; Property tax rates are reduced the first year of reorganization by $1 and return to normal incrementally over a three year period of time. Year 4 is back to normal, so there will be three years of property tax relief; the current Alta School District has a Debt Service Levy (Bond Issue). That bond issue (currently $1.20) will continue to be paid by residents of the current Alta School District until it is paid off completely in 2021.

Current Aurelia School District residents will not have their tax rates affected by this levy, even after the reorganization; by passing reorganization prior to the current jointly employed whole grade sharing incentives sun setting in FY2019, these incentives will carry over for an additional three years after the reorganization, providing roughly half a million dollars in financial incentives that the district would not otherwise be able to gain over that period of time.

If reorganization is approved by the voters, the school system will continue to function immediately after the reorganization just as it currently operates, with grades 9-12 in Alta, grades 5-8 in Aurelia and each community maintaining a PK-4 elementary. No immediate changes are foreseen.

Once the terms of current board members begin to expire, all board seats of the newly organized district will be filled “at-large.” Candidates must live within the boundaries of the newly formed Alta-Aurelia School District.