Three southwest Iowa school districts held special elections Tuesday, with a reorganization in Fremont County failing by a seven-vote margin while a tax increase was approved in Avoca. The Daily NonPareil reports in Pottawattamie County, voters in Avoca, Hancock, Shelby and Tennant approved a tax increase for school infrastructure projects, including transportation, facility repairs and technology. A total of 450 ballots were cast, with a 273-177 split earning a 60 percent majority.
An expanded physical plant and equipment levy allows the AHST Community School District to collect up to $1 per $1,000 taxable valuation for those specific purposes. The levy will be a combination of property taxes and income sales tax, and the district does not have to collect the full amount each year.
Voters in the Hamburg and Farragut school districts were asked to reorganize their districts into a combined Nishnabotna Community School District. While voters in Farragut overwhelming approved the proposal 372-32, voters in Hamburg narrowly defeated the merger with a 271-264 decision.
Both school districts’ voters had to approve the reorganization by a simple majority. One over vote, with both yes and no selected, and one under vote, with neither choice selected, were recorded, according to results released Tuesday night by the Fremont County Auditor’s Office. Early returns showed Hamburg firmly split 22-22 in absentee ballots. Hamburg residents had bemoaned the decision to create a joint high school in 2012, and the Hamburg School Board decided earlier this year not to renew the contract of a shared superintendent with Farragut, which forced both districts to hire independent leadership.
Dee Owen, the deputy auditor in charge of elections, said a recount would be done if someone officially requests it. She said the ballots were hand-counted Tuesday evening. Turnout was about 35 percent in Farragut and about 45 percent in Hamburg, according to unofficial returns.
Without the reorganization, the Hamburg and Farragut districts have pledged to continue whole-grade sharing. Officials from both districts will go before the School Budget Review Committee in January and the Iowa Department of Education in February to address deficiencies and overspending. Officials have warned that significant cuts may be necessary to address spending in excess of each district’s spending authority. With enrollment under the threshold the state considers viable, Hamburg and Farragut also face the possibility of being dissolved if they cannot address the state’s concerns.