Members of the Better Education, Stronger Communities Committee spoke to the Carroll Area Development Corporation Tuesday afternoon in support of an instructional support levy for Carroll Community School District. Speaking were (from left) Amy Fordyce, John Munson, Delaney Schwarte, Brad Jorgensen Anne Collison and Duane Horsley.
Members of the Better Education, Stronger Communities Committee spoke to the Carroll Area Development Corporation Tuesday afternoon in support of an instructional support levy for Carroll Community School District. Speaking were (from left) Amy Fordyce, John Munson, Delaney Schwarte, Brad Jorgensen Anne Collison and Duane Horsley.
July 30, 2014



The average property owner in Carroll would pay only about $2 more per month to fund an instructional support levy for Carroll Community School District next year.

But the benefit to the community would be exponentially greater, said Brad Jorgensen, parent in the district, and spokesman for the Better Education, Stronger Communities Committee.

All the money raised through the levy will stay in the community - spent directly on students in classrooms - a move that will help the area retain and attract young families and will enable the school to continue to provide an educated workforce to local businesses and uninterrupted shared services with the Kuemper Catholic School System, said Jorgensen.

The committee, led primarily by parents of children in the school district, encouraged business leaders to support the levy Tuesday afternoon during a meeting of the Carroll Area Development Corporation at the Carrollton Centre.

Born in Audubon, Jorgensen explained how he left a job as a traveling pharmaceutical sales representative to become a teacher, then a school administrator, before returning home to work the family farm. The decision to relocate to Carroll was based jointly on the school district - determined by him and his wife to provide more opportunities for their children - and the community's progressive reputation.

But that reputation is in jeopardy, he said.

The instructional support levy is the only levy that directly impacts the general levy, used for teacher salaries and curriculum and program materials. It is distinct from building funds - which can be used only for construction or technology purchases, like the ongoing high school renovation and the one-to-one Chromebook initiative - and it is shrinking.

The reality of these dwindling funds prompted consideration this spring of staff cuts which would have pushed some elementary class sizes to more than 30 students per teacher.

Parents who moved to the area for the school district objected to these cuts in force.

As a teacher and administrator, Jorgensen dealt with students who shut down when the work got harder - in larger classrooms, these students can't get the attention they need to keep progressing, he said.

But it need not happen in Carroll, a city perfectly capable of supporting an instructional support levy - and one of only nine in the state that does not, advocates of the levy maintain.

The tax rate for the Carroll public school district this year was $9.15 per $1,000 of valuation - significantly less than the $18.60 average rate of the schools in its sports conference, the $12.10 average rate of neighboring districts, and the $14.25, $11.74, $13.82 and $13.42 tax rates of Atlantic, Harlan, Denison and Jefferson, respectively - all home to schools of comparable size to Carroll's.

This tax rate has dropped nearly $4 per $1,000 of valuation in the last decade, due in large part to the school board's efforts to buy down debt, added Rob Cordes, district superintendent.

The board's proposal to pull half of the levy dollars from property tax and half from a state income surtax means the projected increase on the property-tax rate will be 44 cents per $1,000 of valuation - an amount that will be added to the equation the same year the rate is decreased 24 cents because the district will have completely paid off the bonds for the construction of the middle school, making the net impact only 20 cents per valuation.

The median house value in Carroll is about $120,000. Due to state-mandated equalization orders, a home valued at $120,000 last year is now valued at $132,000 - but due to residential rollback and other tax factors, this same home would only be assessed taxes at a value of $67,000, meaning the tax asking connected to the ISL would be $29.48 beginning next July 1. But in reality, because of the bond payoff on the middle school, this average homeowner would pay only $13.40 more each year in property taxes.

Then there's the income-tax impact.

The median household income in Carroll last year was just more than $45,000. The average state income tax paid was 2.34 percent. A 3 percent income surtax, such as proposed by the Carroll school board, would cost the average Carroll resident $33 per year.

"The facts fall in favor of this levy passing," said John Munson, speaking for the Better Education, Stronger Communities Committee.

The levy failed 1,700 no votes to 1,000 yes votes when it was last place on the ballot in 2008, primarily because people didn't understand what they were voting on, said Delaney Schwarte, a Carroll High junior who has rallied 20 other students to help educate the public about the levy.

Absentee voting on the issues, which will be on the Sept. 9 ballot, has already opened. Jorgensen was the 70th person to cast a vote.