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Iowa GOP pushes limits on local tax trick

News

April 3rd, 2012 by Ric Hanson

All 15 Republicans in a House committee have approved a bill designed to limit the ability of Iowa cities and counties to create special taxing districts that have been used to finance everything from sewers to swimming pools. Representative Chuck Soderberg, a Republican from Le Mars, says the aim is to get a handle on just how much property tax money is being diverted from general purposes to these special projects. “There needs to be more transparency, more accountability, more auditing,” Soderberg says.

Developers say the districts help cities, because the property taxes in those districts are used to pay off bonds that finance the improvements, like new sewers and roads, that lure businesses to the area. Critics say cities have abused the concept and officials in at least 22 Iowa cities have declared all property in their city as one of these special districts. The bill would no longer let cities use this financing tool to pay for things like swimming pools or hospitals, but it could be used to finance police and fire stations.

Representative Dave Jacoby, of Coralville was one of the 10 Democrats who voted against the bill. “Why is this any of the state’s business in the first place?” Jacoby asked during Monday afternoon’s committee meeting. Others argued the bill would create too many limits on communities, making it impossible to quickly come up with a deal to lure a new business to town or to keep an expanding business from leaving. The issue has flared this year due to a situation in eastern Iowa, as Coralville is trying to lure a department store out of Iowa City, using this particular tax gimmick.

(O. Kay Henderson/Radio Iowa)

Lawmakers debate school start date

News

April 3rd, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Iowa schools would be able to start on the 4th Monday of August, but no earlier under legislation pending in the Iowa House. Representative Peter Cownie, a Republican from West Des Moines, urged members of the House Ways and Means Committee to endorse the bill late Monday afternoon. “We’re trying to solve a problem here and we’re trying to mend a relationship between government, business and schools,” Cownie says. Existing state law forbids schools from starting before the week in which September 1st falls, but most Iowa schools apply for a waiver from the state and start far earlier in August, some as early as August 15th.

Governor Branstad is irked at his own education department – the state agency granting those waivers. “I believe it’s a mistake to just give wholesale waivers to everybody,” Branstad says. “My daughter teaches in Waukee. She’s not even going to be able to go to the State Fair because teachers have to start on the 9th of August. I think this is unconscionable.” The state’s entire tourism industry complains about lost customers, as families quit traveling in August since practices for fall sports and other school activities often begin before classes resume for the fall semester.

Branstad supports legislation to establish a uniform school starting date in Iowa “that’s around Labor Day.”  “I believe the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin and other states — high achieving states, a lot of states in other parts of the country have a school start date that’s Labor Day or later,” he says. The bill that’s now eligible for debate in the Iowa House would allow schools to start no earlier than the 4th Monday in August, but they’d have to pay a 100-dollar fee to the state Education Department to process their waiver request to start before September 1st. Representative Jerry Kearns, a Democrat from Keokuk, ridiculed the Republicans who were supporting this new fee.

“If I had run or if my constituents had said they don’t want any new taxes, any new fees or charges by the state, I’d have to vote against this, wouldn’t I, if I were going to satisfy that constituency?” Kearns asked during the committee’s debate. Kearns and all the Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee voted against the bill, but it passed with the support of 13 Republicans. Two Republicans did vote no, however, including Representative Jeremy Taylor, who is a teacher from Sioux City. Taylor says it’s time to start thinking about “innovations” like a year-round school year instead. “Last year I thought that I could come up here as a freshman legislator and do away with the statutory school start date and I ran into the buzz saw of the State Fair and the tourism industry and football and so on,” Taylor says. Other critics say after three solid months of summer vacation, students have to relearn some of what they were taught the previous semester.

School officials say starting earlier in August allows the fall semester to conclude in December, before the holiday break, plus it gives schools a cushion to hold classes in early June to make up any days that are cancelled earlier in the year, due to snow.

(O. Kay Henderson/Radio Iowa)

Omaha schools offering top job to Iowa candidate

News

April 3rd, 2012 by Ric Hanson

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Omaha school board has voted to offer its superintendent’s job to the superintendent of schools in Des Moines, Iowa. The board voted Monday to hire Nancy Sebring. Des Moines school spokesman Phil Roeder told The Des Moines Register, that Sebring accepted the offer “pending successful contract negotiations.” The Des Moines board will meet Wednesday to discuss the search process for a new superintendent. Sebring, who’s in her sixth year in Des Moines, will replace Omaha’s current superintendent John Mackiel, who’s retiring in August. He’s been superintendent since the 1997-98 school year. Other finalists were ReNae Kehrberg, Omaha assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction; and Dan Nerad, superintendent of the Madison (Wis.) Metropolitan School District.

Iowa Evening News Headlines: April 2nd 2012

News

April 2nd, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Southwest Airlines says it will begin flying out of Des Moines later this year. The Dallas-based airline said today that transition its AirTran operations to a Southwest operation. Beginning September 30, there will be two roundtrip flights between Des Moines and Chicago’s Midway International Airport. Southwest bought AirTran last year.

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A former kosher slaughterhouse executive convicted of fraud is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to shorten his sentence or order a new trial. Justices can either hear the case of ex-Agriprocessors Incorporated vice president Sholom Rubashkin or let an appeals court ruling from September stand. He was convicted of creating fake invoices about the plant’s financial condition and received a 27-year prison term.

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Omaha, Nebraska, school board has voted to offer its superintendent’s job to Des Moines superintendent Nancy Sebring. A Des Moines school spokesman said today that Sebring accepted the offer “pending successful contract negotiations.” The Des Moines board will meet Wednesday to discuss the search process for a new superintendent.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The federal government has taken another step toward wide distribution of gasoline mixed with 15 percent ethanol by allowing manufacturers to register as suppliers. E15 still has to clear another set of federal tests and become a registered fuel in individual states. Twenty ethanol makers that have registered to sell E15 are based numerous states, including Iowa.

Missouri man arrested Sunday morning following foot pursuit

News

April 2nd, 2012 by Ric Hanson

A Missouri man stopped for a traffic violation early Sunday morning, ended-up being arrested for OWI, Interference with Official Acts, and Failure to have a valid license. The Page County Sheriff’s Office says 43-year old Robert Ray Tysor, of Westboro, MO, was taken into custody after a deputy initiated a traffic stop on Highway 2, at around 12:20-a.m.  Officials say Tysor got out of his vehicle and began to run through a field. After a short foot pursuit, the deputy caught up to Tysor, and placed him under arrest. He was later released on bond, pending a court appearance. The deputy was assisted at the scene by an officer with the Shenandoah Police Department.

South Page School was on lockdown last week

News

April 2nd, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Page County Sheriff Lyle Palmer reports the South Page School in College Springs was placed in  “lockdown” last Friday, after a parent allegedly became agitated about an incident at the school which involved his son. The incident was reported at around 2:45-p.m. According to the Sheriff, 38-year old Damon Curtis Dustin, of Braddyville, came to the school to talk with the principal. During the conversation, he allegedly began yelling and using vulgar language, causing a disturbance.

The man took his son and daughter from the school, still yelling and creating a disturbance. The Sheriff’s report says Dustin got into his pickup and drove in a reckless manner through the school yard and back onto the street. During the incident, the school was placed on lockdown by the principal. Deputies went to find Dustin, but were unable to locate him. He faces charges which include Criminal Mischief, disorderly conduct, endangerment of a family member, and a traffic violation. Additional information about the incident will be released as it becomes available.

Villisca woman arrested on drug charge

News

April 2nd, 2012 by Ric Hanson

The Page County Sheriff’s Office says 24-year old Kahla Ellen Morrison, of Villisca, was arrested March 26th for Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.Morrison was cited into court and later released.

17-year old arrested for assault with fireplace poker

News

April 2nd, 2012 by Ric Hanson

The Page County Sheriff’s Office reports a 17-year old male was arrested on a charge of Serious Assault last week, after he allegedly assaulted 36-year old Kevin Long, of College Springs. The unnamed teen allegedly hit Long on the head with a fireplace poker causing injury, but Long refused medical treatment. The incident allegedly took place at around 5:30-p.m, on March 23rd, in College Springs. The teen was transported to the Southwest Iowa Juvenile Detention Center in Council Bluffs for holding.

Anita woman arrested Friday

News

April 2nd, 2012 by Ric Hanson

The Cass County Sheriff’s Office reports 31-year old Jessica Miles, of Anita, was arrested Friday on a charge of 5th Degree Theft/Shoplifting. Miles was cited for the alleged offense and released, with orders to appear in court at a later date.

Feds: ‘Meterological March madness’ mostly random

News, Weather

April 2nd, 2012 by Ric Hanson

WASHINGTON (AP) – A quick federal analysis blames most of the record warm March weather that gripped two-thirds of the country on freak chance, a nice southerly wind and only a tiny part man-made global warming. For much of March, record temperatures hit as high as 35 degrees above normal and averaged about 18 degrees warmer than usual. 

In Atlantic, the average High for March 2012 was 67-degrees, or 22-degrees above the normal average High of 45. The average Low last month was 39, which was 14-degrees warmer than normal.  Rainfall for the month was 1.91-inches, which was nearly four-tenths of an inch below normal.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration analyzed the causes and chances of what it nicknamed “meteorological March madness.”  Meteorologist Martin Hoerling (HURL-ing) said the main cause was a persistent warm wind sending toasty air north from the Gulf of Mexico. He said blame for a version of this heat wave is about five parts randomness to one part global warming. Climate change alone can only account for about 2 degrees of the added heat.