Marion County is doing a good job balancing its checkbook – that’s the word from an official audit, which was released to the public this past Monday. The audit by Hunt & Associates, a Knoxville accounting firm, showed $25,353,310 in revenue and $22,977,053 in expenses for the year ending June 30, 2017. The county collected local tax revenue of $50,722,017, forwarding $37,535,472 to townships, school districts and cities around the county. It kept more than $13 million in taxes, a 5 percent increase from the previous year. Service charges, grants, investment income and other sources brought in more than $12 million. The nearly $23 million in expenses was a 10.7 percent increase from the prior year. County Auditor Jake Grandia said equipment purchases and mental health services accounted for much of that increase. The costs came as no surprise and were budgeted for, he said.
The letter grading system for mathematics will stick around a little longer in the Oskaloosa School District – After presentations, discussions and deliberations, the Oskaloosa Community School District (OCSD) Board of Directors in a close 4-3 vote did not approve revisions to high school mathematics grading. At a previous school board meeting, OCSD Curriculum Director Steph Wilson and high school math teachers Beverly Jenkinson, Bret Foster, Cory Sheely and Michael Comfort gave a presentation on standards-based grading. Board members expressed concern whether the standards-based grading would affect students’ higher education opportunities, especially concerning how important grade point averages and scholarships are to college and university admissions, as well as honor rolls.
The proposed South Central Regional Airport continues to move forward one step at a time; the most recently airport-related meeting took place last Thursday, when representatives from HDR, the engineering firm for the project, discussed the land acquisition process for the new airport. No actual land purchases are taking place yet; Jerry Searle, an airport planner with HDR, said projects like this take years and that no formal approval to start purchasing land had yet been given. Concerns from those in attendance revolved around the dispute between Mahaska County and the cities of Pella and Oskaloosa, and, in particular, 220th Avenue in rural Mahaska County. Searle explained that an access road for farm equipment is part of the airport mitigation plan. Also discussed was the funding of land acquisition and how each respective city would pay their share. Pella city council will determine how they fund their portion, while the city of Oskaloosa is planning on selling nonaeronautical portions of ground at their current airport to finance their portion. A timeline was also discussed between Searle and the attendees. Searle says that the land acquisition process, once it begins, could take upwards of three years. ohn DeRooi, a landowner who owns property within the proposed airport site, also questioned the layout of the airport, and how the acquisition could impact parcels of land, saying those impacted parcels would lose their value.
A bill addressing the student lunch debt in public schools passed in the Iowa Legislature. State Senator Ken Rozenboom sponsored the bill after it came up from the house, and says the legislation includes more ways for districts to pursue the funds without harming or shaming students. Rozenboom says schools have been put in a difficult position when it comes to parents who can’t or refuse to pay for their children’s lunch. Senators passed House File 2467 on a unanimous vote. Many local schools have attempted to implement policies over the past few years to encourage parents to pay for student lunches.
If you saw a house coming down the road yesterday your eyes weren’t deceiving you – Habitat for Humanity of Marion County moved a house from Pella to 510 S 6th St. in Knoxville yesterday. Goodwin House Moving, a construction company based out of Washington, Iowa, moved the house on a specialized truck over the Red Rock Dam, and through the streets of Knoxville. The house was donated to Habitat for Humanity by Bank Iowa, who will use the lot to build their new location. Vice President of Bank Iowa Mike Maakestadt says the bank has worked with Habitat for Humanity before, and they are a fan of Habitat because they are a family owned bank that shares many of the same values with the organization.
Mahaska Health Partnership has added new, state-of-the-art breast imaging technology by Siemens called 3D breast tomosynthesis. This technology, the most advanced in the region, takes aim at improving breast cancer detection, reducing false-positive findings and cutting patient call-backs. Siemens technology provides a 50-degree arc, which allows the technologist to build a 3D rendition of the breast and allows doctors to see the breast tissue in fine detail. Radiologists can then see more clearly through breast tissue that may be overlapping or through the tissue of women with dense breasts. Hartke said doctors are better able to detect and diagnose small tumors and rule out abnormalities that may have looked suspicious in the patient’s 2D mammogram.
The annual Tulip Festival in Pella is just a month away, and this year will mark the 25th anniversary of the Klompen Classic 5k fun run. The first event involved just a few hundred participants; today the race draws over 2,000 runners and walkers – 2016 saw the biggest crowd ever with 2,410 registered participants. Crossroads of Pella sponsors the Klompen Classic; executive director Jim Hibma says holding the race the night before the start of Tulip Time has helped the event grow into what it is today. The Klompen Classic begins on May 2 with a free kids run at 6 p.m. at the Vermeer Windmill, and the 5K at 7 p.m. at the corner of Main Street and Washington Street. Awards will be given a 8 p.m. on the Tulip Toren stage.
Pella High School’s Jazz I ensemble came up just short to their rivals from Harlan in the 2018 Iowa Jazz Championships Thursday night in Ames, finishing in 2nd place. Pella and Harlan were the two finalists after 15 ensembles from around the state performed earlier in the day in Class 3A. Annaleigh Babcock received outstanding performer recognition on the trumpet. Pella has won 17 state championships in the 41 years of the event, and have now finished in the top four of the prestigious jazz competition 36 consecutive years, with either Harlan or Pella as champions since 2015. North Mahaska jazz also won their second consecutive state championship in Class 1A–their seventh title in the last ten events.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig made a stop at Frisian Farms Cheese House in Leighton Thursday. Naig says operations like the artisan cheesemakers are value-added agriculture, and his office likes to highlight those processes, both large and small. Naig is a month into his role as the state’s Secretary of Agriculture after Bill Northey was nominated and selected to work as the Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Service in the USDA.