North Winneshiek/Decorah Reorganization

This information is to explain the process associated with the upcoming reorganization vote on Tuesday, February 6, 2018, between the North Winneshiek School District and the Decorah School District.

The Reorganization Timeline

Reorganization Information
The Decorah and North Winneshiek School Districts are working towards reorganization which is also known as consolidation. Reorganization and consolidation are terms used to describe the legal combination of both school districts. The consolidation includes board of directors, assets, liabilities, and personnel.

On Monday, October 16, 2017, the Keystone AEA held a public hearing at Luther College. The Keystone AEA approved the reorganization plan. There will be a public vote on Tuesday, February 6, 2018 from 12 noon to 8 P.M. Each district will hold a polling center for their residents.

Background
From 2002 through 2017, Decorah and North Winneshiek were in a 1-way sharing agreement for 9th-12th grades. This agreement lasted 15 years and resulted in many positives for the students and school district. North Winneshiek was able to cut costs by sharing the high school students which allowed North Winneshiek to stay a solvent school district longer than expected. Decorah benefited from additional students who contributed to the high school and the revenue which followed. Recently, both school boards agreed to a new 7th-12th grade one-way sharing agreement for the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years. This agreement will be in place for two school years.

The goal of both districts is consolidation by July 1, 2019. The Decorah and North Winneshiek School Boards have spent numerous hours over several years studying options for the long term stability for both schools. The stability comes in the form of a steady enrollment which provides for a financially secure future. Quality programming includes sound facilities, updated technology, a strong staff which includes teachers, support personnel, and administration.

In recent years, Iowa School Districts have dealt with increasing financial strains and accreditation requirements. The North Winneshiek District in particular has seen a significant enrollment decline in the last 10 years. Decorah’s enrollment has remained steady.

Iowa School Districts, except for urban areas, have dealt with declining enrollment, low state aid, high transportation costs and increasing accreditation requirements. A stable or growing enrollment is the key to the survival of Iowa Schools.

The State of Iowa does not take poor planning lightly. They have, in fact, through the School Budget Review Committee, involuntarily closed two schools for failure to take appropriate measures to stay solvent.

Each board takes this decision with great thought and foresight. The Decorah and North Winneshiek Boards’ goal is to provide a secure and predictable education for each student.

What if the vote fails?
If the vote fails in either district, North Winneshiek will eventually dissolve or close. Students will be distributed to either Howard-Winneshiek or Decorah School Districts. There will likely not an agreement between Decorah and Mabel-Canton going forward. In other words, unelected bureaucrats in Des Moines will follow state laws to make decisions for the students. In addition, current North Winneshiek employees will not have an opportunity for work in the newly formed district. And even worse, the tax incentive money will not come to the newly formed district. A no vote would deprive constituents of several years of property tax reduction incentives associated with the reorganization.

Long Range Planning Timelines
Monday, October 16, 2017 - Keystone AEA public hearing at 5:30 P.M. at Luther College
Tuesday, February 6, 2017 - Public vote on the reorganization of the two districts
2017-2018 School Year - North Winneshiek will operate a PS-6th grade school.
2018-2019 School Year - North Winneshiek will operate a PS-6th grade school.
July 1, 2019 and the 2019-2020 School Year - The newly reorganized district will begin if the vote passes at 50%+1 in each district.

Property Tax Incentives for Reorganization
2019-2020 $1.00 State Buydown Incentive = Base Tax Rate $4.40
2020-2021 $.50 State Buydown Incentive = Base Tax Rate $4.90
2021-2022 $.25 State Buydown Incentive = Base Tax Rate $5.15
2022-2023 Property Tax Relief $270,000 from State Sales Tax per Revenue Purpose Statement
2023-2024 Property Tax Relief $270,000 from State Sales Tax per Revenue Purpose Statement
2024-2025 Property Tax Relief $270,000 from State Sales Tax per Revenue Purpose Statement
2025-2026 Bond Debt is paid in full.

There will be 3 votes on February 6, 2018.
All three votes must pass.
1.Voted PPEL $1.34
2.Petition for Reorganization -
Financial Incentives: 3 additional years of supplemental weighting for whole grade sharing incentives after the consolidation
3.The Revenue Purpose Statement
will state that the a portion of the sale tax will be used for property tax relief in 2023, 2024, and 2025. The approximate amount will be $270,000 for 2023, 2024 and 2025, which is what the former North Winneshiek District received annually.

Printable Reorganizaion Timeline

 

Questions and Answers about Reorganization

1. What will the structure of the North Winneshiek School be for the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years?
Preschool - 6th Grade

2. What are the current agreements with Decorah and Mabel-Canton for the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years?
Mabel-Canton ● 1-Way Reciprocal Sharing Agreement for 7th-12th grades.
Decorah ● 1-Way Whole Grade Sharing Agreement for 7th-12th grades.

3. Can parents/students switch their school of attendance?
Yes, parents/students can change their school throughout the year. This has been done in the past with high school students.

4. How will students be bussed to those schools?
The bussing will remain the same as it is now. In the morning, all North Winneshiek students will ride the bus to the North Winneshiek School. There will be 2 North Winneshiek shuttle buses which will transport 7-12 students. One shuttle will go to Mabel-Canton and one shuttle will go to Decorah. The Decorah shuttle will drop off kids at the high school first and then go to the middle school. In the afternoon, the Mabel-Canton and Decorah shuttles will pick up the students and return to North Winneshiek about 3:25 P.M. The North Winneshiek route buses will then transport the students home.

5. What is the future of bussing after the consolidation with Decorah?
The routes will change after the consolidation. At this point, we are not sure what they will look like. Mabel-Canton might be involved with transportation after the consolidation for students going to Mabel-Canton.

6. When is the consolidation vote with Decorah School District?
There will be a public vote on Tuesday, February 6, 2018. The vote will pass if there is a 50% + 1 majority in both districts.

7. How will the newly consolidated district be governed?
If the consolidation vote passes, a new school board will be formed based on population of the districts. Decorah will appoint 4 members and North Winneshiek will appoint 1 member. They will make all of the decisions regarding facilities, staffing and policy going forward.

8. What is consolidation?
It is when two independent school districts combine to form a new school district.

9. What is dissolution?
It is when a school district voluntarily closes. The assets and liabilities are split between adjacent school districts.

10. What is forced dissolution?
It is when the state of Iowa, through the School Budget Review Committee, closes a school district for not appropriately planning for the future.

11. What has the North Winneshiek School Board done to study and discuss short and long range planning?
Since 2012, below are the dates and times when the North Winneshiek School Board held discussions regarding short and long range planning. There have been 2 community meetings, 2 joint meetings with Decorah, 1 public hearing held by Keystone AEA and a feasibility Study conducted by the Iowa Department of Education.

Monday, December 12, 2012 4:30 P.M. ● Feasibility Study dated May 20, 2013  ● Monday, October 14, 2013 4:30 P.M. ●  Monday, October 21, 2013 Joint Board Meeting with Decorah 5:30 P.M.  ● Monday, November 11, 2013 4:30 P.M. ● Monday, December 9, 2013 4:30 P.M. ● Monday, January 13, 2014 4:30 P.M. ● Monday, April 14, 2014 4:30 P.M. ● Monday, May 12, 2014 4:30 P.M. ● Monday, October 13, 2014 4:30 P.M.  Monday, November 10, 2014 4:30 P.M. ● Tuesday, November 25, 2014 Community Meeting 7:00 P.M. ● Monday, January 12, 2015 4:30 P.M. Monday, May 11, 2015 4:30 P.M.● Monday, June 8, 2015 4:30 P.M. ● Monday, November 9, 2015 4:30 P.M. ● Monday, January 11, 2016 4:30 P.M. ● Monday, April 11, 2016 4:30 P.M. ● Monday, May 9, 2016 4:30 P.M. ● Thursday, June 16, 2016 4:30 P.M. ● Monday, August 8, 2016 4:30 P.M. ● Monday, September 12, 2016 4:30 P.M. ● Monday, November 14, 2016 4:30 P.M. ● Thursday, March 2, 2017 Community Meeting 7:00 P.M. ● Monday, June 5, 2017 Joint Meeting with Decorah 5:30 P.M. ● Tuesday, August 15, 2017 4:30 P.M. ● Monday, October 16, 2017
● AEA Organization Public Hearing 5:30 P.M.

12. What is an ad-hoc committee?
Ad-hoc means "for this specific purpose". An ad-hoc committee is a subgroup of the board authorized to look into work related to the consolidation with Decorah. It consists of 2 board members and the superintendent.

13. When has the ad-hoc committee met with Decorah?
The ad-hoc committee met on the following times. ● August 2013 ● October 2013 ● November 2013 ● December 2013 ● January 2014 ● June 2014 ● August 2014 ● October 2014 ● March 2016 ● February 2017 ● July 2017 ● August 2017

14. Are the ad-hoc meetings open or closed meetings?
By law, they can be closed meetings; however, if needed they can be open meetings for the public.

15. What are the pressures on small rural schools?
● Declining enrollment
● Low state supplemental assistance increases
● High transportation costs ● Accreditation requirements
● Maintaining a quality staff
                    ■ Uncertainty with teacher contracts
   ■ Teachers as free agents
                            ○ Uncertainty with the future of IPERS
                                                       ○ Uncertainty with the future of fringe benefits and pay
● Meeting the 21st century needs of students
● New state and federal voucher programs
● New state on-line options

16. Will Decorah use the North Winneshiek building?
The North Winneshiek building may be needed as a educational facility in the future. The new combined school board (4 Decorah Members and 1 North Winneshiek Member) will make specific decisions regarding planning issues after the consolidation vote.

17. Will the new school district continue with the Mabel-Canton agreement?
The Decorah Board has approved a 2-year reciprocal agreement with Mabel-Canton. The new combined school board will need to make a decision on this agreement after the consolidation vote if approved.

18. When are board agendas sent to local news outlets?
All public meeting agendas are sent out 5 days before the scheduled meeting.

19. Do the news outlets put the agendas in their news reports?
The press is required to receive a copy of the agenda 24 hours ahead of the meeting. They can choose to publish the agenda if they want to.

20. Where are board agendas sent. What are the media sources?
Decorah Newspapers, Cedar Rapids Gazette, KCRG TV, Mabel News Record, Decorahnews.com, KDEC Radio and KVIK Radio

21. Where are the board agendas posted at school and when?
Board agendas are posted at the main school office 3 days prior to an open meeting of the board.

22. Can the members of the public request an agenda at anytime?
Yes