By Paul Deaton
North Liberty Leader
IOWA CITY–The Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) board of directors moved quickly through a Feb. 25 public hearing on Penn Elementary and a consent agenda to hear a report on the developing community engagement process.
The ICCSD engaged St. Louis consulting firm UNICOM•ARC to educate, inform the public, and engage the community as the district’s attendance zones are restructured to accommodate district growth.
“We are excited about our move in the spring here, and the opportunity to work with the community through a dialogue process as we consider attendance zones in the district,” said Superintendent Steve Murley.
Chace Ramey, ICCSD Chief Community Engagement Officer, introduced Rod Wright and Dan Burns from UNICOM•ARC.
“We decided to set up a (series) of meetings,” said Ramey. “We are going to look at three clusters to take place during a six-week period after spring break. However, before spring break we are going kick that off with a district-wide community meeting to make sure everyone has a base line feel for what the process is going to look like.”
The district-wide kick-off meeting for the Attendance Area Engagement (AAE) process will be held Wednesday, March 12, at 6 p.m. at Northwest Junior High.
The cluster meetings will be held at North Central Junior High, Southeast Junior High School and at Park View Church. (See schedule below.)
Rod Wright, president of the consulting firm, said the meeting structure will include random seating at tables, followed by an informational presentation. There will then be a table activity related to the presentation during which community members can collaborate on attendance zone restructuring. Staff will use the activity to collect information, summarize it, and look for consensus points from the public. The findings will then be used to structure subsequent cluster meetings.
The main concern expressed by school board members was with the desire to involve as large a segment of the community as possible. The administration also seeks to conform to school district policy, particularly the diversity policy, while seeking community engagement and going through the boundary re-structuring process.
Once finished with the cluster meetings, the consultants will design a new attendance boundary plan and report to the board. Ramey was expected to provide an update on the community engagement process at the March 11 board business meeting.
Last week, the business meeting adjourned after only 40 minutes and the board’s operations committee convened a few minutes later.
School tax levy
Craig Hansel, chief financial officer and board secretary, presented information about the Fiscal Year 2015 budget. The budget recommended by Murley proposes an increase in the district’s property tax levy of 12 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, raising the rate from a current five-year low of $13.69 to $13.81. If approved, the increase for a homeowner of a $100,000 home in town would pay $751.29 in school taxes after the state-legislated residential rollback of 54.4 percent, or $684 for those with homestead credit. Even with the increase, ICCSD would remain below the average tax levy for Iowa school districts.
The Iowa legislature failed to conform to statutory requirements to provide a supplemental state aid number (formerly called allowable growth) for state’s school districts within 30 days of Governor Branstad’s budget proposal, or Feb. 27. Therefore, Hansel used budget estimates and a figure of 4 percent allowable growth set during last year’s legislative session in calculating the increase.
Hansel said Murley will recommend the budget to the full school board. The public hearing on the budget will be held April 8, at 6 p.m.
Director Tuyet Dorau inquired as to the status of her request for a tiered bus fee schedule for households with multiple students who pay a bus rider fee.
After a discussion of bus transportation cost recovery, Director Jeff McGinness weighed in.
“I would agree with some sort of graduated schedule for multi-student families,” McGinness said.
“We’ll pull some data together and try and figure out how frequently that’s happening now and how frequently it might happen,” said Dr. David Dude, chief operating officer for the district. “If the board feels strongly that we should allow multi-student households to not have to pay the fee more than once, then just tell us that and that’s what we’ll do.”
After more discussion, the committee decided to recommend a tiered schedule for bus rides to the full board at the March 11 business meeting. The proposed schedule would be: one student would pay the full rate; a second student would pay half the rate; and additional students living at the same household would ride free. The schedule would represent a negligible cost to the district, according to Dude.