IM, Breitung schools study consolidation

KINGSFORD – School officials at the Iron Mountain and Breitung Township school districts are forming a committee to discuss possible consolidation.

The Breitung Township Schools Board of Education has approved a motion to form a discovery committee consisting of two board members and the superintendent.

According to Breitung Township Schools Supt. Craig Allen, the committee will begin the process of exploring the feasibility and potential advantages and disadvantages to the district of combining resources with the Iron Mountain School District.

He added that this is simply an exercise to gather objective data to see if there is any advantage to Breitung Township Schools continuing to explore this option.

Across Woodward Avenue in Iron Mountain, the school board was polled by President Jeff Michaud, and they agreed to form a committee as soon as possible with Breitung Township Schools to discuss the topic of possible future district consolidations due to the results of a consolidation survey.

The survey showed many voters favored consolidation.

In Iron Mountain, Supt. Tom Jayne will be on the committee along with Board President Jeff Michaud and board member Mark Pontti.

A similar representation will come from Kingsford with Allen and board members Dave Kashian and Bob Hendrickson.

Jayne noted that in addition to representatives from both school districts, Wendy Warmuth, superintendent of the Dickinson-Iron Intermediate School District, will be a part of the committee as a neutral person to help bridge the discussions between the two districts.

Jayne added that these will be just preliminary talks to begin with since they will be taking things slow.

But as progress is made, there will be more talks, meetings, getting information out to the public and involving the public as they progress.

“It’s a big endeavor, but I am personally happy to explore the concepts if it is best for students,” Jayne said.

The action by the two school boards comes after the results of a consolidation survey was released.

The first poll surveyed voters in the four area school districts – Iron Mountain, Breitung Township, Norway-Vulcan and North Dickinson.

This survey showed that both Norway-Vulcan and North Dickinson respondents were mostly opposed to the idea while the other two were open to the consolidation issue.

A second follow-up phone survey was then conducted of just voters in Breitung Township and Iron Mountain.

The results of this survey showed that the Breitung Township voters were in favor of consolidation 51 percent to 44 percent opposed; and Iron Mountain voters favored consolidation by 61 percent to 34 percent opposed.

Sponsor of the survey, the Dickinson County Citizens Committee, delivered the results to the four school districts, leaving the next step up to the school boards of education.

Information presented during the survey showed that the total combined enrollment figures for the Iron Mountain and Breitung Township Schools was a little more than 2,500 based on the latest student counts.

This breaks down to 795 high school students, 1,131 students in grades K-5, and 600 students in grades 6-8 or middle school age.

Comments made by survey respondents showed that many were not aware of how the debt of each school district would be handled in the event of a school consolidation.

Breitung Township’s debt is 3.96 mills and Iron Mountain’s is 5.18 mills. With consolidation, the tax base would remain the same for three years.

At the end of the third year, the new school board may elect to ask the voters whether they want to combine the taxes.

If the voters say no, then the tax rate stays the same.

The residents would not be taking on the debt of another district unless it was approved by the voters.

Linda Lobeck’s e-mail address is llobeck@ironmountaindailynews.com.