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State

Voters approve consolidation of two Iowa school districts

KEOSAUQUA (AP) — Voters have approved the consolidation of two southeast Iowa school districts after years of declining enrollment and changes to state funding.

Residents in the Harmony and Van Buren school districts voted Tuesday in favor of the districts’ reorganization. About 72 percent of Harmony residents and 94 percent of Van Buren voters approved the measure to consolidate the districts.

“I’m pretty happy right now,” said Harmony Superintendent Kerry Phillips. “It’s a relief. After four years, it’s quite a happy ending.”

The districts had entered into a whole-grade sharing agreement for grades seven through 12 before considering merging. Through the agreement, Harmony’s junior and senior high school students attended Van Buren High School. The last high school class to graduate from Harmony’s district was in 2016.

The consolidation will allow the districts to share resources and offer more programming.

Property taxes are also expected to lower to about $11 or $12 per $1,000 valuation. That amount is a drop for both districts, particularly for Harmony’s residents whose property taxes are more than $19 per $1,000 valuation.

The districts will continue operating under separate superintendents and school boards through the 2018-19 school year. A new board will be formed after July 1, 2019 with three existing Van Buren board members, two Harmony board members and an at-large member.

“That at-large person could be from either board,” Phillips said.

School building boundaries and bus routes will be decided during the next year.

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