Vote to combine school districts is Tuesday
Residents of the Southern Cal and Rockwell City-Lytton School Districts will vote on Tuesday whether to consolidate the districts.
Greene County schools vote
East Greene and Jefferson-Scranton voters will decide in a special election on Tuesday whether the two districts should consolidate into the Greene County Community School District.
Declining enrollment in both districts is the compelling reason for the reorganization. In 2001, Jefferson-Scranton had 1,422 students and East Greene had 500 students, which dropped to 1,002 and 320 students, respectively, this year.
As two separate districts, the lower enrollments make it difficult to offer any more than the most basic classes. Combined, the districts have enough students - and enough state funding - to provide vocational courses, upper level academic courses and college courses at the high school, and specialized positions, such as the reading specialist, that benefit students at all levels.
The districts are currently in a whole-grade sharing agreement, with some students from each district traveling to the other for class.
The initial new school board would comprise seven members, with five appointed from the Jefferson-Scranton board and two from the East Greene board. The board would eventually shrink to five members.
A simple majority in both districts is needed to approve the measure. If approved, the reorganization would be effective July 1, 2014.
Jeff Kruse, the superintendent for both Calhoun County districts, has said that if the consolidation vote does not pass, neither district will be able to sustain itself.
The new district will be called South Central Calhoun, and the mascot will be the Titans, which is what the shared sports teams have already been named.
A simple majority of more than 50 percent of the vote in each district is required to approve the consolidation, which would take effect July 1, 2014.
This is the first year that the two schools have combined their classes for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Last year the district shared grades 5 through 12. The students already share classrooms, teachers and extracurricular activities.
The districts have already gone from about 100 teachers before whole-grade sharing to about 85 this year.
Under the consolidation plan, the two five-member school boards that govern each district will combine into one seven-member board.
Voters will decide which board members will be part of the new board. Three members will be from the old Southern Cal District, and three will be from the former Rockwell City-Lytton District. The seventh member will be selected by those six members of the new district.
Kruse has said that the consolidation could gain the district approximately $750,000 from state funding over a three-year period. Consolidation would also reduce taxes by $1 per $1,000 valuation the first year following reorganization, 67 cents in year two and 33 cents in year three. The uniform property tax levy in the State of Iowa is set at $5.40 for each school district.
The vote comes amid a vast decline in school enrollment since 1998. The Southern Calhoun School District went from 694 students in 1998 to 499 in 2011 - a decline of 28 percent. The Rockwell City-Lytton District had 612 students in 1998 to 467 students in 2011 - a 24-percent drop.
In an August meeting, Kruse said Rockwell City-Lytton hit a budgetary crisis between three and five years ago, and Southern Calhoun began struggling the past two years.
If the Tuesday vote fails in either district, the consolidation cannot proceed. Kruse said no matter what happens, the districts will continue whole-grade sharing.
Polling places are the same as a regular school district election. Residents can vote at the Courthouse in Rockwell City, the library in Lytton, the Lake City community building or the Lohrville community building.
Polls are open from noon to 8 p.m.
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