Sumner-Fredericksburg merger headed to a vote - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Sumner-Fredericksburg merger headed to a vote

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FREDERICKSBURG (KWWL) -

Two eastern Iowa school districts could soon be merged into one.  Voters in Sumner and Fredericksburg will head to the polls next month to decide on consolidation.

Sumner and Fredericksburg already combine a lot of resources.  In fact, the two districts have been under a "whole grade sharing" agreement for nine years, and have a single superintendent.  But with dropping enrollment, resulting in less state aid, district leaders feel consolidating to have one budget just makes sense.  (Exact loss of 136 students, estimated $800,000 less per year in funding)

Students in Sumner and Fredericksburg are used to being around each other.  The districts already have combined middle and high schools, go by one name and mascot.  Now, the merger could become completed, if voters approve a consolidation measure next month.

"It's the logical next step," said Superintendent Rick Pederson.

Consolidation is primarily a business move.  Students likely wouldn't notice any changes but there would be big benefits of rolling funds into one budget, allowing resources to be put where they're most needed.  There are also state incentives for districts reorganizing within the next year.

"We would get three years incentive for reduced taxes in the new district.  They take a one dollar off per thousand dollars assessed value the first year, 50 cents the second, and 25 cents the third, which doesn't affect our funding but it saves the taxpayers money," Pederson said.

The new district would also continue to get whole-grade sharing incentives for three years of around a $100,000 annually. 

The biggest anxiety for some in the community--less representation.  One district would mean just one school board; which would be tasked with a lot of work right away if the merger is approved.

"There'll be work for them to do as a new entity in getting there.  A lot of it is in place between the two districts.  Their policies are quite differently.  We'll have to come up with a condensed one for a district and operate them from there on," said Pederson.

There would be an additional financial benefit given recent building improvements in the district.  The tax burden from those projects would be spread throughout the new district, dropping significantly over the next decade for Fredericksburg residents.

The consolidation measure goes to a vote for district patrons on February 5th.  It must pass by a majority in both districts. If approved, Sumner and Fredericksburg would officially merge as of July 1st, 2014.

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