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CCSD Board approves Instructional Support Program participation

Creston Community School District will implement an Instructional Support Levy after the Board of Directors voted 4-1 in favor of participating in the Instructional Support Program during Monday’s public hearing and board meeting.

The board received no written comment for or against participation in the Instructional Support Program and the public hearing drew no attendants from the public.

Prior to voting, board members discussed concerns about rate and tax increases looming for several other entities.

“Obviously, with the ag economy where it’s at today, it’s not the best time to be squeezing everything together,” Board President Dr. Brad James said.

Creston Community School District was one of only five districts in the state of Iowa not utilizing an Instructional Support Levy, after another district recently approved one.

ISL allows a school district to increase its spending authority by a maximum of 10 percent.

Instructional Support is a levy that can be generated from property taxes, income surtax or a combination of both.

Currently, a portion of property taxes paid by residents in the school district fall under the cash reserve levy. The cash reserve levy, however, does not provide the school district with any spending authority.

“You’ve talked to other superintendents who have an Instructional Support Levy,” Board Member Galen Zumbach said. “What have they shared with you? Why did they do it and why has it benefited their district?”

“There’s a variety of reasons that different individual districts have approved this,” CCSD Superintendent Steve McDermott said. “Some have simply done it to bolster their general fund. Of course, in our case, it’s to wok on our spending authority, which is unique to Iowa education financing. As we talked, we would trade, more or less, a significant portion of our cash reserve levy for Instructional Support Levy.”

Some cash reserve would be maintained for things like special education deficit, which the district would have to watch closely.

The Instructional Support Levy could replace some property tax paid by residents living within the Creston Community School District area. That would be decided by the board and is renewed annually.

Participation in the Instructional Support Program is for five years. Each year, the board has to determine what the formula will be for funding the ISL.

“This is only part of the total budget solution,” McDermott said. “We’re making cuts. We made them last year. We’re making them this coming year. We’re looking at significant staff cuts this year and over the next two years. It’s not all just about funding.”

By not participating in the Instructional Support Program, it was possible CCSD would have to make even more staff cuts.

“I’ve never promoted that idea along the way here because I never wanted it to sound threatening,” McDermott said. “But, your alternatives are limited. So, our approach has been you work on some of the funding streams but you also make reductions at the same time.”

Following the discussion, the board voted 4-1 in favor of participating in the Instructional Support Program, with Board Member Sharon Snodgrass casting the only vote against it.

“I would just add that my vote is based on the fact I received no major negative input from the community in regards to whether or not we pass this,” Zumbach said. “Had I received a lot of negative input, my vote probably would have been different. At the same time, for this district to move forward, we need some flexibility in our spending authority.”

James encouraged board members and administrators to discuss with community members what the best formula will be to fund the ISL as the board moves forward in budget workshops before the budget certification in April.

“I really think, as a board, we can sit down and look at the property tax and the (income) surtax and come up with something that is fair to the community, that is not going to be that detrimental and yet will benefit our district,” Zumbach said. “Where, if we do nothing, we have set ourselves up for some real problems.”

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