Glenwood Community School District voters approved the school district’s revenue purpose statement by a nearly 4-to-1 margin in a special election last Tuesday.
Approval of the revenue purpose statement allows the district to extend its existing one-cent sales tax revenue stream until 2029. That fund, now called the Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) Fund, is a legislatively restricted revenue stream allowing districts to improve only its school infrastructure or service its existing debt.
The measure was passed with 406 yes votes, and 54 no votes.
Glenwood Community Schools Superintendent Devin Embray used the word “awesome” to describe the overwhelming support the revenue purpose statement received.
“I thought it was a great show of support by our constituents,” he said. “It’s going to allow us to continue to move in a forward direction with our buildings and our infrastructure, capital projects, to continue to pay down the debt service levy and provide technology.”
Approval of the revenue purpose statement was necessitated as a result of a legislative change in school financing that saw the Local Option Sales Tax (SILO) converted to a sixth penny of state sales tax on retail purchases to benefit students in all Iowa school districts. That change requires districts to determine how they plan to spend the sales tax money and communicate that intention to their patrons via special election and its revenue purpose statement.
Embray said he was unsure what to expect from Tuesday’s vote but was confident the district had the support of a core group of school district residents and did everything they could to get out the information about the revenue purpose statement, including hosting a town hall meeting.
“You never know for sure, going into a vote,” he said. “We had some dedicated people getting the word out so that was nice. A lot of times it’s about making sure people just have the right information. Anytime there’s a vote, there’s misinformation out there. People hear one thing and go with that until they hear something different. So we tried hard to get the information so people have that when they go vote.”
In past years, Glenwood had applied $1.9 million of their SAVE funds toward the new high school, resurfaced the high school track, installed new playground equipment, provided computer improvements around the district and remodeled Northeast Elementary. In addition, the district also increased its paying down of its debt service levy from $86,000 per year to $286,000 annually.
The district hopes to use future funds to make infrastructure improvements at Glenwood Middle School and Northeast Elementary, increase security measures at West Elementary and further improve technology district wide.
The one-cent sales tax generated more than $1 million in revenue this year. Those numbers will vary annually, however, based on enrollment and how much sales were done in the state, Embray said.
Currently the district has approximately $700,000 in its SAVE fund, with more than $400,000 already earmarked for projects. Of that fund, 20 percent will go toward debt reduction, 20 percent to technology, 20 percent to buildings and grounds, 8 percent to software maintenance and 4 percent to the district's fine arts programs. The remaining 28 percent of the fund will be carried over to the next fiscal year.
Without a voter approved revenue purpose statement the district’s one-cent sales tax money would have had to go entirely toward debt service reduction until the district’s entire debt is paid off, in roughly 2025, Embray said.