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Sibley-Ocheyedan School Board meets

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SIBLEY, Iowa — The Sibley-Ocheyedan School Board addressed two hot-button issues at Monday night’s meeting.

Opening the meeting was a public hearing to raise the instructional support levy from 7 percent to 10 percent. The board also discussed moving forward to bring life back to the vacant elementary school building in Ocheyedan.

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Only one citizen turned up to speak in protest of raising the school’s instructional support levy. Lucinda Henrichs questioned if the proposed tax increase is intended to serve as a solution to the district’s financial woes.

“The increase in the levy tax is not a long-term fix to the problem of the school’s spending habits,” Henrichs said. “And they have to make these cuts to save the future of our school. As a taxpayer, I refuse to give the board a blank check without a plan to balance the budget.”

Superintendent Bill Boer noted that of the 338 school districts in Iowa, 328 have an instructional support levy in place. Of that number, only 18 are below the state maximum of 10 percent.

S-O has had an instructional levy in place since 1991.

In a roll-call vote during the board’s regular meeting following the public hearing, Board President Susie Bormann, Kyle Grimes and Tasha Bos voted in favor of the increase. Board members Tracy Van Diepen and Daniel Berkland were absent from the meeting.

The increase will be in effect for the next four years. The district’s ISL rate in FY14 was $13.74766 per $1,000 of taxable property. The original rate for FY15 was $11.66768 — a decrease of $2.07998 — while the new rate for the next four years will be $11.77246 per $1,000, still well below the FY14 rate.

Attention turned to the dilapidated school building in Ocheyedan with a presentation from Osceola County Economic Director Mike Earll and Sibley City Manager Glenn Anderson. The board discussed the building’s fate and quickly determined everyone was interested in salvaging the property.

Talk of what to do with the property has been ongoing for a number of years. Bos voiced concern over continued talk and little action on the board’s behalf.

“We’ve sat too long,” Bo’s said.

An engineer who inspected the property estimates the continued leakage from the roof and water damage will render the building unusable in two years. One major stumbling block in restoration has been asbestos located in the facility.

Boer informed board members that the district’s attorney, Steve Avery, recommended the district be responsible for the asbestos removal. If the district were to sell the property as-is, S-O could still be held liable for asbestos removal costs in the future.

Earll and Anderson indicated they’d been talking with city officials in Ocheyedan to discuss possibilities for the building. Earll also acknowledged the cost for the asbestos removal is a large burden the district cannot foot alone given its current financial state.

Earll suggested the district partner with the city of Ocheyedan and Osceola County to share the costs. Anderson indicated the city of Sibley was also willing to offer support to the district to see the building restored. The board gave approval for Boer to solicit bids for the asbestos removal.

Daily Globe Reporter Robin Baumgarn may be reached at 376-7323.

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