Sherwood presents reorganization update

Agreement with Van Diest tabled Monday night

The Webster City school board met Monday night to discuss the reorganization process between the Northeast Hamilton and Webster City school districts.

The Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency is formally requesting a special election be held on Tuesday, April 3 regarding the proposed reorganization of Webster City and Northeast Hamilton. Polling locations in Blairsburg and Webster City will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

According to Superintendent Mike Sherwood, a public hearing concerning this information is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, March 15 at 7 p.m. at the school administration office board room.

Sherwood took the board through the power point presentation of information the district will be sharing at the public hearing regarding the proposed reorganization.

“I’ve sent the power point to Larry Sigel, of Iowa School Finance Information Services, for his review just to make sure when we start talking about property tax rates and all that, that we are as accurate as we can be,” Sherwood said.

The presentation focused on finances, historical information of NEH and the financial impact the proposed reorganization will have on both districts.

Sherwood began the presentation by explaining why the two districts decided to reorganize into one district.

“It may not be as important for Webster City, but I think it will be for Northeast Hamilton residents to talk about how we got where we are at,” Sherwood said. “It really comes down to declining enrollment, low state supplemental aid and a loss that impacts spending authority.”

Sherwood noted that the decline in student enrollment, elimination of the budget guarantee and state supplemental aid led to a lower spending authority over time. Unspent authority is a district credit card limit. This is the total general fund revenues minus total general fund expenditures. A district’s goal is to maintain 15-20 percent of their maximum authorized budget (general fund).

“They’ve done all the things they need to do – partial grade share, whole grade share – they’ve done all those things to save and cut costs. But it gets to the point of no return when there’s nothing left we can cut,” Sherwood said.

Sherwood pointed out declining enrollment rates at NEH. In 2008, NEH had an enrollment of 257. Pupils dropped to 230 in 2013 and in 2018 there were only 190 students enrolled at NEH. In Webster City, there were 1,579 students accounted for in 2008, 1,561 in 2013 and 1,506 in 2018. The newly formed district estimated a total of 1,700 students.

State supplemental aid is the increase in the amount of money the state appropriates annually on a per pupil basis. In the NEH district, cost per pupil in 2018 amounted to $6,834. In the Webster City district, cost per pupil in the 2018 fiscal year amounted to $6,664. The newly formed district estimated cost per pupil, based on the 2018 fiscal year numbers, is $6,683, and increase of $19 per student.

According to Sherwood, this would amount to an additional $30,000 a year.

Assets and liabilities will be combined in the newly formed district except for bond indebtedness, which will stay in each historical district.

A series of other financial incentives were also discussed.

Sherwood also discussed how the boards of education would be conducted if the proposed reorganization was passed.

Both the Webster City and Northeast Hamilton school boards would finish the business of each individual district for the 2018-2019 school year.

An initial board would be comprised by appointment of four Webster City members and one NEH member. The four to one ratio would be based solely on district population. This board would be responsible for making decisions that affect the newly formed district in the 2019 fiscal year.

The initial board would then transition to serve as the interim board until the next regular board election in the fall of 2021. Two initial board members would be up for election in November of 2019 and three initial board members would be up for election in November of 2021.

The public is welcome to check out the power point at the March 15 public hearing at the school administration office board room at 7 p.m.

Sherwood noted that he would be happy to meet with groups or organizations to discuss the information in further detail.

A real estate agreement between the Webster City Community School District and Van Diest Medical Center was tabled. No action was taken on the agreement.

“I talked to Van Diest Medical Center and they have to schedule a public hearing yet,” said Sherwood. “They’ll schedule that and they plan on approving this at their meeting at the end of February.”

The next SIAC meeting will be held on Wednesday, March 7 at 5:30 p.m. at the school office administration board room. Attendees will observe a presentation by Dr. Adam Zellmer, work on goal setting and provide updated information on the reorganization of NEH and Webster City.

A series of board policy update first readings were approved.

The next board meeting will be held on Monday, Feb. 26 at 6 p.m.