Mid-Prairie School District talks budget, spending for 2020

WELLMAN — Property owners in the Mid-Prairie School District will have a decrease in their tax levy for the 2019-20 year.

On Monday, March 11, the board for the Mid-Prairie Community School District set a date and time for the 2019-20 public hearing and approved a 2019-20 tax levy of $13.23 per thousand dollars of property value, 25 cents below the $13.48 paid this previous year.

“To say we’re down 25 cents, to me, is a significant thing, as it would be if we were up 25 cents,” said Mid-Prairie Business Manager Jeff Swartzentruber. “On a $100,000 house if it goes up 25 cents, then you’re talking $250.”

Swartzentruber contributes some of why citizens will be paying less is due to a recent 6 percent rise in taxable valuations in the district.

“When the county goes out to assess values and says this is the valuation, there’s a couple things happening,” Swartzentruber explained. “They’re either saying the buildings we have in the ground are more expensive, or there’s more stuff being built meaning (the county) has more value.”

Swartzentruber says an apparent rise in property like this could mean there are more residents contributing to the property tax, resulting in a decreased bill to individual properties as there is a greater number bearing the load. The amount collected from this tax will amount to $6.6 million for the school toward their projected total revenue of $22,834,063 the rest of which, according to Swartzentruber, “will come from state aid and other funds.” This is up very slightly from the district’s total revenue last year of $22,270,678.

In relation to school budget, the board also unanimously approved bids for new Middle School Gym walls, a new van and renovation to the Middle School kitchen.

Onesty Friday, of Shive-Hattery Inc., brought her recommendation before the board.

“We received three bids for the work,” said Friday of the work in the gym. “The apparent low bidder was Apex Construction.”

The Iowa City based business bid $106,375 to replace the wall.

“The ground underneath (the wall) is unstable,” said Schneider. “We need to do something to replace the foundation, to keep the walls from continuing to sink. I think it shifts an inch a year, which doesn’t sound like much, but, after a while, can be a significant amount.”

This shifting has caused a series of visible cracks along the wall of the gym. To keep the wall from sinking further, Apex Construction will be using push-piers which will extend 60 feet below the gym to rest on bedrock and offer better support.

According to Friday, construction will begin sometime after June 10 when the school year ends and the first week of August when classes resume.

“During the winter we had one of our vans totaled in an accident,” said Superintendent Mark Schneider. “It was not our driver’s fault, there were no children in the van, but unfortunately the van was destroyed.”

According to school board President Jeremy Pickard, insurance covered $10,826.35

After years of using GMC-Chevrolet, Schneider said the company no longer makes eight-passengers van, meaning he was left to choose between Ford and Dodge. Schneider’s recommendation was a new 2019 Ford Transit Passenger wagon, an eight-passenger van priced at $25,836 from Charles Capper Ford Inc.

“The total sales price is $25,836,” said Schieder. “This is a new vehicle. It is your basic eight-passenger van.”

The district also will be commencing phase two of their Middle School Kitchen remodeling this summer after approving a $92,127 bid from Rapids Foodservice contract and design.

“Last year we just (replaced) the cooler and the freezer and a hole for a serving line,” said Schneider. “Now we’re replacing all the equipment inside.”

According to Schneider, the kitchen, which services both Middle School and grade school, “has been virtually unchanged since the ‘60s.”

“We want to repaint, we want to put a new floor in, we’re going to have to do some plumbing work,” he said.

What items will be billed to the 2019 budget and 2020 budget will be determined on when the bills are dated, according to Swartzentruber. Amounts dated before June 30, 2019, would be paid for as part of this year, while later dates would be considered part of next year.

The board set the date and time of the Public Hearing for the 2019-20 budget to March 25 at 6:45 p.m.