Fairfield school district levy stays same

The Fairfield Community School District Board of Directors approved the fiscal year 2018-19 budget Monday, with a tax levy that will stay the same.

The district?s tax levy is $13.33 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation. That is the total levy, which is made of smaller levies. Though some of the levies will rise and others fall, the effect on the total levy will be zero.

District business manager Kim Sheets noted that Fairfield?s levy is below the state average of $13.61, and below several neighboring schools such as Mt. Pleasant ($13.85 for next fiscal year), Ottumwa ($14.69), Burlington ($15.86) and Cardinal ($17.33).

Fairfield?s rate is higher than a few neighboring schools such as WACO ($13.22), Pekin ($12.94), and Van Buren ($12.23).


Public comments

The board heard from several members of the public, most of whom attended the meeting to speak about the ongoing contract negotiations between the district and teachers. Fairfield Middle School math teacher Lisa Greenig, who?s on the Fairfield Community Education Association (teachers? union) negotiating team, stated her disappointment with the Iowa Legislature for removing protections for public employees by rewriting Iowa Code Chapter 20. Public employees considered to be in high-risk occupations, such as police and firefighters, were exempted from some of the changes.

Greenig said that teachers participate in emergency drills, incluing active shooter drills, and that it was wrong not to include them in the high-risk category.

Greenig voiced her displeasure in the school board?s counter-offer for a contract issued last week. The association offered a contract that included language about ?permissives? such as employee hours, safety provisions and leaves of absences. The district?s counter-offer suggested removing most of that language and transferring it to the district handbook.

Greenig objected to this, saying that the handbook can be changed without staff input. She was aware that Superintendent Laurie Noll promised the board would review the handbook annually, and to take pains to only revise it during the review.

?What about if a new superintendent comes along who wants to make changes?? Greenig asked. ?A contract promotes trust and goodwill for all parties. A handbook does not.?

Resident John McKerley also urged the board to include the permissive language in the contract. He said the Legislature has put school boards in an awkward place.

?They?re asking you to take money from public employees,? he said. ?You have to voluntarily give power back to your employees.?

He said several school districts have included permissive language in their contracts despite the fact Iowa law no longer requires them to do so. He mentioned Carroll, Emmetsburg and Estherville as a few examples.

McKerley ran for school board in 2017 but dropped out before the election because he felt other candidates could carry forward his values.

?On Election Day, I was so happy I could step away from the fight knowing others would fight it for me,? he said. ?Please don?t disappoint me.?

Resident Susan Carr, a retired teacher, asked the board to include permissive language in the contract.

Business teacher Diane Goudy, who has taught in the district for 40 years, said it was not necessary for the two sides to be enemies. In fact, she said that ?what was once adverserial became two teams working together.? However, she feels that, with the board?s counter-offer, the relationship between the board and teachers has gone backwards.

?I?m confused how moving permissives to the handbook will foster trust,? she said.