Fairfield Ledger
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Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 22, 2017

Legislators tour school district

By Nicole Major, Ledger staff writer | Oct 19, 2017
Photo by: Nicole Major/ Ledger photo Local legislators and school board members toured the Fairfield Community School District Wednesday afternoon. From left are Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s John Sanbothe, Iowa Rep. Phil Miller, Fairfield school board member Debi Plum, Fairfield schools superintendent Laurie Noll, Fairfield school board member Christi Welsh, Iowa Rep. Dave Heaton and Fairfield schools facility director Jeff Koontz.

Iowa House Representatives Dave Heaton and Phil Miller toured the Fairfield Community School District Wednesday to learn how the district recently spent its Secure and Advanced Vision for Education funds — known as the “penny sales tax.”

SAVE funds, formerly known as SILO, State Infrastructure Local Option sales tax, are specifically intended for use on school infrastructure.

The FCSD bonded $4.1 million in expected SAVE funds through 2029. It utilized that money on various upgrades to both Pence Elementary School and the Fairfield Middle School.

“Our district has used the sales penny tax to the best interest of the community,” said school superintendent Laurie Noll. “We’re fixing our buildings, and we are not raising property taxes — we’re not frivolously spending funds, but we are looking at our capital project needs.”

Noll said that the main purpose of the SAVE funds, is to keep the district’s facilities up to date — which is why she wanted state legislators to see the results of what the program provides public schools.

Pence’s $3.5 million project started just after summer break, and included a new heating and air conditioning system for the school; new lighting; a roof and a new gymnasium floor.

The middle school gained a repaved $552,000 expanded parking lot.

“We think it’s our job to educate the legislators on what we’ve done, and what will happen next year and down the road,” said district facilities director Jeff Koontz.

Noll said that SAVE funds offset the district’s Physical Plant and Equipment Levy.

“It offsets that money and helps our property tax relief,” Noll said. “We are really using SAVE funds for major repairs ... we are taking that money and using it for the benefit of our physical properties, and in turn, making a better learning environment for our students.”

SAVE has a sunset date of 2029, which is why Noll said the school leveraged the funds out to that date.

As Heaton and Miller toured the schools, they noted various building improvements, and also conversed with students, faculty and staff along their way.

“I think that I have always been supportive of the saved penny,” Heaton said, explaining the benefits that schools are able to obtain by investing in their buildings.

“Not having to rely on property tax; that’s the key — using sales tax dollars and not property tax dollars,” he said.

Although SAVE is set to sunset, Miller said he’s hoping it won’t.

“I think we should drop the sunset all the way; we should just do away with it,” Miller said, just after he shared the benefits of the penny tax program with preschool teacher associate Kim Funkhouser.

Noll also invited John Sanbothe, the regional manager of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.

“I invited him because I wanted him to see what the needs were within our building,” Noll said. “They have a huge influence within our funding stream.”

 

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