School district update
The Washington Community School District just finished its first quarter of the 2011-2012 school year. I hope to update patrons on the recently completed enrollment reporting and possible effects on property taxes for next year, facility updates and a Kirkwood Center update.
Certified Enrollment and Possible Tax Implication
Oct. 1st is the official count day for school districts. While it seems that it would be a simple process to figure out who is in school on that day, the process actually takes nearly a month to finalize the results of enrollments. The reason for that is the fact that we have so many different scenarios that arise and need to be followed through on and verified. For example, open enrollments. There are times that a student who has previously been open enrolled in or out in the past will relocate, which means they may no longer be a resident of the district they open enrolled out of. If they are not attending your school district, you may not be aware of this change until the other school district has verified their report and the student’s name is missing. When a name is missing, then you need to verify to make sure the students wasn’t just overlooked.
All state reports are done electronically now. Student data is all submitted online. I know there were people who were frustrated that registration was done online but that is now the way it has to be since that is the same way we transfer the information to the state. Resident enrollment and Open enrollments are tracked by the state through student identification numbers and automatically reported into the district’s enrollment files. We submit a preliminary enrollment number by Oct. 15, which is usually pretty close to the final, but there still will be a variance between that and Oct. 31st reporting based on district duplicate reporting or tracking down where students maybe have moved. In our case, the difference between our Oct. 15 number and final number was only one student, but during that time it waivered as many as four students.
In the end, our actual enrollment figure ended up as 1,739.64, which is less than 1 student from 2010 when it was 1,740.23. The reason you end up with fractional parts of students is due to things like pre-school and home schooled students who are only counted at a fraction of a full-time student. An enrollment figure that is less than one student in variance is generally good news. It means a stable population and enrollment and offers continuity in the budget for the future. The other good news is the supplemental weighting the district will be receiving for the sharing of staff, Kirkwood courses, and operational sharing that we are doing will increase by the equivalent of over 17 more students. Overall, the district will see a positive budgeting enrollment number.
That means that the district will probably not need to institute a budget guarantee levy. It also means that the district’s cash levy will also get some relief. As a result, I would anticipate another reduction in the property tax levy, following a 70-cent reduction for this year. That should be good news to all property tax payers.
We are very pleased with the renovation of the Stewart Elementary building. The geothermal conversion was very successful. I know the staff and students enjoyed the comfort of air conditioning last August and September. The windows and lights were replaced throughout the building, as well as the heating and cooling system. This project was funded through an Iowa Energy grant, casino funding and district general funds. The pay back for this project, in terms of energy savings is less than 10 years.
The new high school is getting closer every day. It is projected that we will be able to begin moving to the new high school as early as May and projected full use with the open of the new school year in August. The next community walk through will be available on Dec. 5, 6 to 8 p.m. Meet in the junior high commons area to participate. The new high school is currently under budget and a little ahead of schedule, both good things. The new high school is being completed with local option sales tax dollars. It also will be geo-thermal and will provide savings to the district in energy expense.
The district was fortunate to be able to take advantage of a $232,000 grant opportunity this year through the Iowa Energy grant again. These funds will be matched with an equal amount from the Physical Plant and Equipment levy to replace the boilers in the 1918 building. This project also includes replacement of the traps throughout the building. The large hot water holding tank will be replaced with a more efficient water heating system. The pneumatic controls will be replaced or repaired throughout the building. The new boiler system will be at least 85 percent efficient and should show tremendous savings in heating expenses for the district. We will also take advantage of a $100,000 donation from a patron to upgrade the electrical service in the building. Other items to be updated include the replacement of two roofs, installation of a new special education restroom, several new doors and replace/repair door locks, and installation of multi-media systems into the classrooms. These repairs will be funded through Physical Plant and Equipment Levy dollars and Iowa Demonstration Grant funds. It is also my hope that we will be able to provide window air units for the classrooms that need it. Half of the classrooms already have air units. The board of education has not officially acted on this request yet to say it will happen for sure. We will be installing units in the Lincoln and Junior High Classrooms that need them. Those units have already been purchased. It is my hope that early dismissals for heat will be a thing of the past in this district.
It was a winning day for the community of Washington last September when the Kirkwood bond issue was extended. I was also glad to see the outstanding support given by Washington County. The result will be a Kirkwood Academy that will be open for business by the fall of 2013. This center will be used by students from Washington, Mid-Prairie, WACO, Highland and potentially Keota, Winfield Mount-Union and Lone Tree. We have also invited Fairfield to consider participating in academies of interest as well.
Academies under consideration include Construction trade, Auto Technology, Culinary Arts, EMT, Graphics, Patient Care, Project Lead the Way, Welding, Criminal Justice and Computer Networking. The center will also include upper level coursework in the arts and sciences as well as an alternative education center. What it will mean is expanded opportunities for all students and several opportunities to earn collegiate credit in high school. It is my hope to have opportunities for student to earn their Associates Degree, while still in high school, free of charge. The academy will be modeled after the Jones County Academy in Monticello.
The high school will continue to offer concurrent credit classes as well as be active participants in the Kirkwood Academy. This is an outstanding situation for our students, our community and our region. It is an opportunity for school districts to work together, offer more programming than any one district could, and to purchase and maintain expensive and up to date equipment.