Preparing to close the books on South Clay

Friday, May 13, 2011

Nearly one year after students dismissed for summer vacation for the final time, the dissolution of the former South Clay school district is nearing its conclusion. According to Spencer Superintendent Greg Ebeling, it should be a fairly smooth process to officially close the books by June 30.

In order for this to occur, a handful of items need to be accomplished. These include putting a septic system in, moving a rural water line and abandoning a reservoir tank, finishing the building's north addition with an entryway and doorway, and updating the abstract.

"Those few things have to be completed yet because that was all part of the deal when the property got sold. So, we'll pay for all of that, but the (remaining) South Clay (Physical Plant and Equipment Levy) money will pay for it," Ebeling said. "And then, the property can be officially closed and turned over to the new owner, who will have to get a title opinion done."

Since 1993-94, the first year the school building in Gillett Grove became an elementary building -- and middle school and high school students were shared with Ruthven-Ayrshire, Sioux Central, Spencer and Laurens-Marathon -- South Clay representatives figured the dissolution discussion would eventually occur in their northwest Iowa school district. The district's continued declining student enrollment, in combination with its increasing number of students open enrolling out of the prekindergarten-through-sixth-grade building, prompted former South Clay board members to officially consider broaching the district's dissolution.

The decision to dissolve South Clay was finally made when it was understood that it would have to combine its preschool and kindergarten classes, as well as its fourth and fifth grade classrooms in order to seat students in each of the building's classrooms.

Ebeling, meanwhile, recognizes the last year has meant a lot of extra work for Spencer central office workers Sharon Slawson and Jolynne Eilts, who have taken responsibility for paying South Clay's lingering bills.

Once final projects are completed and the property is turned over, any remaining district funds will be divided among five districts. Following a Feb. 2, 2010 vote, in which South Clay residents formally approved the dissolution of their district's territory, assets and liabilities, Spencer gained 50 percent, Sioux Central earned 45.5 percent, Laurens-Marathon garnered 3.2 percent, Ruthven-Ayrshire and Clay Central-Everly collected less than 1 percent of the district's assessed valuation.

Since the Iowa Department of Education began keeping district reorganization and dissolution records in 1965, five have dissolved. Following Boone Valley's dissolution in 1988, Grand Valley's in 1998, East Monona's in 2004 and New Market's in 2008, South Clay marked Iowa's fifth school district to decide to distribute its students and property among its neighboring districts.

"As to how much it will end up being, it's not a lot. Because there's not very much to be divided out. I'm just hoping we break even when all the projects are in," Ebeling said. " ... (If there's anything left), it will be divided out based upon the percentage that each district got of assessed value."

In the meantime, Spencer's superintendent can't foresee South Clay's books not being closed by June 30.

"Frankly, I was hoping we'd be done before this, but some of those projects kept getting delayed," Ebeling said, adding he anticipates the former district's last bills being approved by Spencer school board members during their Wednesday, June 8 meeting.

"The books are closed then, the districts are paid their percentages and that's it," Ebeling said. "Because the South Clay board action and vote has already technically dissolved the district. It's only on paper right now is where things have to be completed. So, really, there will be one more report that will be sent to the Department of Education, kind of like a certified annual report, to say these are the things that took place on the South Clay books this last year. That's it then. Done. Over."

The South Clay dissolution timeline to date:

* The main South Clay school building is demolished in mid-March 2011. The shop and maintenance building, as well as the building on the north end of the property, remain.

* A June 19, 2010, auction features something for everyone.

* A come-and-go coffee for former South Clay teachers, students, board members and residents is held May 28, 2010, at the school.

* Classes dismiss May 26, 2010, for summer vacation. South Clay school board members discuss demolishing a part of the school building.

* South Clay voters approve the dissolution of their district's territory, assets and liabilities on Feb. 2, 2010.

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