AlWood voters mulling possible tax jump

Sherrie Taylor/GateHouse News Service

AlWood School District voters will be asked to approve an 80-cent increase in taxes in the Nov. 4 election.

To ensure that voters have an opportunity to ask questions and gain information about the proposal, public meetings are scheduled by a committee of parents and residents.

The “.80 in ‘08” committee, chaired by Dave Althaus of Alpha, held its first meeting Oct. 20 in Woodhull.

“I have four kids in this school district, that’s why I’m standing here tonight,” Althaus told the group of 20. “More information will help you make a better educated decision in November.”

The basic purpose of the committee in support of the referendum was listed on a poster, including:

*Strengthen AlWood for the future.

*Keep your dollars at home.

*Go directly to a better education for our youth.

*Improve possibilities for future consolidation options.

*Your vote counts in November.

These posters will appear at school events and other locations, Althaus said. The posters urge contacting a school board member or Supt. Shannon Bumann with questions.

What the district will get for the 80-cent increase was questioned Monday night. The funds will help overcome the funding shortfall due to the decline in enrollment and reduced state aid.

The increase will be directed to the education fund - about 70 percent of the district’s total budget, financing teachers, technology, textbooks, extra-curricular events, and everything that deals with the curriculum.

“How long will this fix last and who decided the 80 cents?” taxpayer and parent Mark Larson asked.

“Our goal is consolidation, board president Mike Holt responded, adding that the board made the decision on the 80-cent referendum. “We don’t currently have the money to keep us going much past two or three years; this will keep us going until we find a consolidation partner, and will provide funds for the quality education our kids deserve.”

The 80-cent increase is assessed on the equalized assessed valuation, one third of the value of your home.

For instance, this figures out to about 26 cents per $1,000 EAV on a $100,000 home.

Bumann said the building fund, approved in 1998 for the new middle school addition as well as other remodeling, will be paid off in 2019.

“We chose to invest in our facilities and we’re paying that now, a 63-cent building fund assessment,” Bumann said. He noted that a conservative estimate for a balanced budget to continue would be 2014-2015.

If the referendum would fail, a question many asked, the district could put the question on the ballot at a later election, or sell working cash bonds, though voters must be notified of this intent.

“There’s a limit on what you can do. Working cash bonds are good for a short term fix,” Bumann pointed out, adding, “The state funding is a joke.”

“Working cash bonds would stay with the district and not be shared in any consolidation,” Holt added.

He told those in attendance that a consolidation would be necessary to provide options at the high school; more students would provide more sections in each subject and more choices.

“We need more kids in our high school to make it work for them, provide the choices,” Holt said. He noted that 300 to 400 students in the high school would be ideal.

“If we consolidated tomorrow, there would be more than an 80-cent increase in the AlWood taxes,” Bumann added.

“We are actively talking to other districts, there is a lot of work to make a public decision to consider consolidation, but we’re anxiously waiting the opportunity to sit down and discuss consolidation with other districts,” Holt said.

“My goal would be for every high school student to graduate with a diploma and an associate’s degree, and we’ll continue to work with the junior colleges to achieve this goal,” Bumann said.

Many of AlWood’s students currently take dual-credit and online classes, he noted.

Althaus said more meetings will be scheduled and announced, as well as fliers and other information made available.

Anyone who would like to volunteer to help on this committee can contact Althaus in Alpha, or any of the “.80 in ‘08” committee members.