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Newscast 3.26.24: Iowa Senate moves major AEA restructuring bill to Gov. Reynolds desk; Sioux City Airport could be spot for new hotel; NAIA national women basketball championship set for Sioux City on Tuesday

Sioux City Community School District headquarters
Sioux City Community School District headquarters

Iowa Senate Republicans on Tuesday sent an education package to Gov. Kim Reynolds that fulfills her call for an overhaul of the state’s regional Area Education Agency system.

The final bill requires districts to continue using the AEAs for special education services, but districts would take control over 10 percent of state funding for those special ed supports.

The bill passed with a vote of 30 to 18. Three Republicans and all Democrats voted against it.

In addition to the AEA changes, it includes an increase in the minimum teacher salary to $50,0000 annually over two years, bumps up the salaries of other more tenured teachers to $60,000, and sets a 2.5 percent increase in state aid for schools in the 2024-25 year.

In a release, Governor Reynolds praised the measure, which passed in the Iowa House last week, although it looks much different from her January proposal. Reynolds said it was a compromise that took into account a lot of voices, from educators, parents, and others.

She praised the increased teacher salaries that will result, and said, “Change is seldom easy, but it is necessary to achieve better results. Reforming the AEA system creates accountability, transparency, consistency, and most importantly, better outcomes for all Iowa’s students.”

In another part of the measure, districts would also control all funding that is currently dedicated to the AEAs’ media and education services.

Additionally, the Sioux City School Board members on Monday proposed a lessened school property tax rate for next year, when they were still waiting on state legislators to set the percent of new money that Iowa K-12 districts will get.

During the Monday school board meeting, the members discussed some of the bigger pieces that go into setting the Sioux City School District budget for the 2024-25 year. They set a public hearing on April 8 as the next step in the process of setting the budget.

While it now known one day after the meeting that supplemental state aid piece of the budget with have a 2.5 percent increase, the district is also still negotiating salaries with school district unionized employees.

The current proposal for the school budget of more than $200 million dollars is that the property tax levy will drop from $12.44 per $1,000 of assessed property value to $12.37.

Additionally, many specialty cameras that can zero in on the license plates of vehicles could be coming to Sioux City and Woodbury County, if a grant application is approved.

The Sioux City Council members in their Monday meeting approved the grant application, which would be shared with Woodbury County. With the zooming capabilities of the cameras, police and deputies could use the footage for detecting information about people who may be involved in crimes.

The grant of $126,000 dollars would be enough to buy about 40 cameras. Sioux City Mayor Bob Scott noted that South Sioux City has used the cameras. The cameras will not be used for traffic enforcement purposes.

In another action with the city council, members approved a step that could open the door to a developer building a hotel, housing, and a convenience store close to the Sioux Gateway Airport.

The council approved a measure giving notice of accepting a proposal that would result in selling a land tract adjacent to the airport for $1.4 million dollars to Midwest Hotels LLC.

A city memo says the project near the airport, which is located west of Interstate 29, would eventually benefit the city by increasing the property tax base and providing economic development. The next step for the council regarding the airport land will come in a May meeting.

In other news, the women’s national basketball championship for NAIA colleges will be played at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Sioux City, with Providence of Montana playing a Siouxland team, Dordt University.

Dordt is the higher seeded team, and in a Monday semifinal game the Defenders defeated Cumberlands of Kentucky. In the other semifinal contest, Providence defeated another Montana team from their conference.

NAIA officials call the championship game the Battle for the Red Banner, and the national women’s tourney has been played in Sioux City since 1998. The event at the Tyson Events Center is a big draw worth millions to the area, as teams and fans spend money at the games, hotels, restaurants and other attractions.

When Siouxland teams like Dordt play, the game attendance spikes.