May 23, 2014

Carroll Community School District may increase the cost of student-sharing for neighboring Ar-We-Va High School.

Currently Ar-We-Va pays the Carroll district 80 percent of the cost-per-pupil allotment it receives from the state, per student, per class period attended.

The agreement - which has not changed in its roughly six years - was on the agenda to be renewed at the Carroll district's board meeting Wednesday night. The Ar-We-Va district voted to renew the agreement during its meeting on May 14.

Carroll school board member LaVern Dirkx questioned the renewal of the contract in light of the district's recent purchase and incorporation of Chromebooks in the classroom - the cost of the one-to-one technology initiative was covered by the Carroll district, but the Ar-We-Va students benefit, he said.

But superintendent Rob Cordes said that increasing staff costs coupled with lagging state funding increases are a more significant reason to take another look at the sharing contract.

"The cost we incur continues to increase at a sharper incline than the cost per pupil," he said.

Although the figure the Carroll district receives increases when state funding increases because it receives 80 percent of a larger amount, it is not keeping up with expenditures.

"It should be a break-even thing for both schools," Dirkx agreed.

When the agreement began, Cordes estimates, the district spent about 79 percent of its general fund on salaries - but in 2014-15, that number will push 83 percent, he said.

Ar-We-Va superintendent Kurt Brosamle said that Cordes had mentioned increasing the percentage in the agreement, but his board was not in favor of the idea.

"Costs are going up for both schools," he said, sharing Cordes' lament regarding lagging state funding. "(An increase) would affect our budget that much more."

Brosamle said his district has been making cuts throughout the last 12 years, primarily through attrition - not filling a position when an educator retires. Over the last decade, he estimates, the district's enrollment has declined by about 100 students.

Ar-We-Va now serves about 265 students. Its sharing with Carroll occurs primarily through juniors who travel to Carroll to take chemistry, and for other upperclassmen who travel to Carroll to participate in dual-credit Des Moines Area Community College courses.

Cordes said the time has come for renewed dialogue between the districts - which Brosamle said the Ar-We-Va board would not oppose.

Cordes also stressed that a change of a few percent would not be a large sum of money - it would not solve the financial problems for either district.

He advised the board to tread carefully to ensure that students were not "caught in the middle."