District 8 hears about process for changing boundaries, dissolving

District 8 board member Kyle Renner listens as Jodi Johnson, the Williams County Superintendent of Schools, explains the process of dissolving or reorganizing school districts.

Williams County Public School District No. 8 board President Penny Soiseth had a message for the audience at a board workshop Thursday — the district is not dissolving, at least not yet.

The board met with Jodi Johnson, the Williams County schools superintendent, to talk about property transfer, dissolution and reorganization. When written questions were collected from the audience, several asked about the district dissolving.

One questioned why the district is holding a bond referendum if it’s dissolving. Another asked what would happen to Round Prairie if District 8 dissolved.

Soiseth’s answer to both was the same.

“We’re not dissolving,” she said.

A follow up question asked whether the board was considering reorganization.

“I would say not at this time,” Soiseth said.

Board Vice President Curt Sullivan agreed, with a caveat.

“I would say after the election on Feb. 25, things might change,” Sullivan said.

On Feb. 25, the district is holding a vote on a $28 million bond to build an elementary school. Sullivan and Soiseth will both be on the ballot the same day for a recall election.

Johnson went over the process of districts exchanging property, as well as dissolving or reorganizing. Two motions to dissolve District 8 have failed this year. Both were made by board member Myles Fisher.

In every scenario, the process takes time and has to be approved by the school board, a county committee and the state Board of Public Education. There have to be multiple hearings, as well.

Johnson said the process could take anywhere from six months to a year. To dissolve, the board is encouraged to come up with a plan for dividing up its assets, while for reorganization, the boards of all the districts involved have to OK a plan.

Boards are also encouraged to meet with residents.

“It’s much better to have a plan for what that would look like before you make those kinds of decisions,” Johnson said.

In the case of dissolution, the taxable valuation of a district is split up proportionally based on how many students would go to surrounding districts. Because of that, the value of a mill — a figure based on the district’s taxable valuation — would change.

“You really have to be careful when you’re guessing about mill Levys because there are so many factors that can change what they end up being,” Johnson said.

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