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School board special election Tuesday ‘not an additional tax’

Published: Friday, Nov. 30, 2012 12:11 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, Nov. 30, 2012 12:13 p.m. CST

The Newton Community School District Board of Education is holding a special election from noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday at only one local polling site — the Jasper County Community Center, located at 2401 First Ave. E. in Newton. 

The purpose of the election is to renew the district’s Revenue Purpose Statement, which expires January 2013, to authorize expenditures from the state Secure an Advanced Vision for Education fund. If adopted, it would extend to 2029 when the state penny expires, according to Director of Business Services Gayle Isaac during the board’s Oct. 8 regular meeting.

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

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

“If it does fail (in the election), that initiative will be postponed for at least a year and maybe two. If it passes, it’ll allow us to implement this technology initiative for our students and also it’ll help us to continue to lower the property tax levy as we have the last three out of the last four years,” said Superintendent Steve McDermott, noting that a simple majority will allow the initiative to move forward in the district. “If it fails, then it’ll force us to look at other potential levy increases to backfill. I think it’s a unique time of year for a special election but it’s extremely important to our students.”

Roughly 20 iPads already have been ordered using sales tax pennies and currently are in the hands of all Basics & Beyond teachers as well as one teacher in each department at Newton Senior High School.

In addition to voting on the RPS, the Newton community also will officially elect a board member.

“The way the (Iowa) code reads, whenever you have a special election, if there is an appointed board position, that position must be elected during the special election,” McDermott said. “We had one board spot where we had a board member leave mid-term and so the board appointed someone to fill that spot, Joe Klingensmith, and now because of the special election the code says that we are required to go ahead and vote for that position.”

On the ballot will be Joe Klingensmith, current board vice president; Sheri Benson, who initially was voted into the seat three years ago but resigned her position due to personal reasons; and Newton parent Stephanie Bailey.

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