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Special election for Revenue Purpose Statement vote planned for Dec. 4

‘Not an additional tax,’ Gayle Isaac says

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012 11:37 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012 11:38 a.m. CDT

The Newton Community School District Board of Education has approved a special election set for Dec. 4 at certain polling locations.

During Monday night’s regular meeting, the board unanimously voted to approve a resolution allowing the district to hold a special election to renew its Revenue Purpose Statement to authorize expenditures from the state Secure and Advanced Vision for Education fund.

“This all stems from the local option sales tax, which began 10 years ago. At that point, the board asked the community to approve a Revenue Purpose Statement,” said Gayle Isaac, director of business services.

The original statement expires in January 2013. If adopted, it would extend to 2029 when the state penny expires, Isaac said.

“This is not an additional tax. This is just approving how we use the money, the state penny,” he said.

Board member Don Poynter clarified that, when originally adopted, the Revenue Purpose Statement’s intent was to be used toward the district’s Physical Plant and Equipment Levy and for debt retirement. Now that some debt has been paid off, the district is looking to use the money toward the planned 1:1 iPad initiative at the high school beginning next fall, as well as for infrastructure needs.

However, “if it is not passed, it immediately restricts the district for use of that state penny for entire deferment of property tax,” Isaac said. “(There will be) no infrastructure, no 1:1 initiative until property tax has been deferred.”

“So a ‘yes’ vote is a yes for technology in the hands of our students,” board member Donna Cook said.

“We need to get that budget purpose statement passed so we can continue to maintain programming for students and also continue to decrease that overall tax levy rate,” Superintendent Steve McDermott said in a phone conversation this morning. “Still, the majority would go toward that debt reduction.”

Other items of interest during Monday night’s regular meeting:

• According to NCSD documents presented to the board, preliminary numbers show district enrollment is on the rise for the first time 10 years.

The official certified enrollment count occurred Oct. 1 at all schools, showing a net change in enrollment from the previous year at 29.80 students.

“It’s still preliminary until Oct. 17. The good thing is that enrollment is up by 20 students in class,” Isaac said. (Note the difference of about 10 students, who McDermott described as a difference in weighting.) “Compared to last year where it was down 63, that’s a heck of a turnover. I like it. I don’t want to hex us, but this could be the turnover we’ve been waiting for.”

Certified enrollment numbers still must be uploaded to the State Department of Education databases for further research and to make sure no two districts are claiming the same students, but Isaac said historically enrollment count shouldn’t change by more than plus-or-minus five students.

“It’s just a sign of stability for the community and for the school district,” McDermott said of the upsurge. “While we’ll still need to be careful with budget planning, it’s just nice to have a year when we’re not responding to a large decline in enrollment.”

• The board unanimously voted to adopt the Annex I portion of the Jasper County Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan, which helps with emergency management. The board discussed the plan late last May, but needed approval from the Department of Homeland Security before moving forward.

“If adopted, if something happened to the building, it would not only be brought back to the state it was in before it was destroyed ... but we could enhance that facility,” Isaac said, noting disaster money into the district in times of need would come from FEMA.

• Due to an expulsion hearing set for 7:30 p.m. Monday, the board voted to postpone action on the certified annual financial report and special education services state reports until the next meeting on Oct. 22. The financial health report also will be discussed at a later date.

Amy Martens can be contacted at (641) 792-3121 ext. 426 or via email at amartens@newtondailynews.com.

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