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IV board looks at state cuts

By NICK NARIGON

The Iowa Valley School Board continued to look at ways to deal with a $313,268 cut in state financing at its regular school board meeting Nov. 23.

“In order to minimize the impact of this loss of revenue to educational programs, we’ll need to look at the district-wide financial picture before determining which solutions best fit our circumstances,” said IV Superintendent Alan Jensen.

Essentially, the district has until June 30, 2010, to make the 10 percent state cut, Jensen said.

Iowa law restricts school districts from terminating teachers in the middle of a contract for financial reasons, he said, which leaves about 15 to 20 percent of the district’s budget in which the board can make cuts.

The district may have to look at lay offs for next school year, Jensen said. In order to make lay offs, he said the state needs to ease up on state mandates that require schools to hire certain positions.

“The schools are really left with one alternative, which is to lay people off. To me, they have got to lessen the mandates, some of the ones they have just put in the last five years, so we can lay people off and not have to provide the Cadillac service, if you will,” Jensen said. “You look at our elementary here. We cannot lay off an elementary teacher in a regular classroom. Our classroom sizes are pretty well maxed out in K through sixth. The high school, we are looking at it for next year, not to say we aren’t looking at the elementary either.”

The school district does have the spending authority to raise taxes to make up the difference for this year’s deficit, Jensen said.

IV School Board member Mark Swift said the state basically cut 10 percent out of the school’s budget and told them to raise taxes to recover the $313,268 cut.

“They are not going to send us any money. We are supposed to go to the property tax holders and raise taxes, is essentially what it boils down to,” Swift said. “That is what we are talking about here. That is what the state has done to the school districts.”

IV School Board member Dennis Roberts suggested the district look at asking teachers to take unpaid furlough days.

Jensen said furlough days would have to be taken on professional development days, of which there are two or three left in the school year.

“The teachers would have to agree to that, and you kind of tank professional development,” Jensen said. “But these are extreme times.”

The Iowa Valley School Board will hold a work session Dec. 14 to discuss the issue further.

SBRC MODIFIED ALLOWABLE GROWTH

The Iowa Valley School Board voted 3-2 to request $24,150 in modified allowable growth for the current fiscal year.

Iowa Valley had four students move into the school district last year after the certified enrollment count took place, and immediately open enroll into another school district, Jensen said.

The Iowa Valley School District is required to pay $22,184 in tuition for these open-enrolled students. Since the students moved to the Iowa Valley School District after the certified enrollment count, the school district was not provided with state aid to cover the tuition.

Jensen said the school board needs to submit an application to the School Board Review Committee to allow the district to raise property taxes to cover the $22,184 tuition.

“The reason they allow you to do this is because this is an out of pocket expense. You can’t just absorb it in your classroom with 20 other kids as a normal student moving in,” Jensen said.

Iowa Valley School Board President Jane Fry said it is a pretty common practice to request additional allowable growth to cover students who open enroll out of the district. If the school board doesn’t request additional allowable growth, Fry said the district will have to pay the $22,000 out of its general fund.

“Just knowing what our decisions are going to have to be for the budget in the next few months, I don’t know how we can sit here and say we aren’t going to submit an application for modified allowable growth,” Fry said. “I don’t know how we add another $22,000 to our $313,000.”

Iowa Valley School Board member Dennis Roberts said the school board is asking to raise property taxes $22,000 because the students open enrolled to another school district.

Roberts and school board member Mark Swift voted against the motion.

In addition to approving the request for $22,184 in additional allowable growth for the open enrolled students, the IV School Board will request $1,966 to fund the Limited English Proficiency program.

AT RISK

The Iowa Valley School Board voted unanimously Nov. 23 to reduce taxes by $0.74 per $1,000 of taxable valuation for the school’s at-risk and drop out prevention program.

The last two years, the school district taxed $0.98 per $1,000 of taxable valuation to fund the at-risk and drop out prevention program.

This produced a surplus of $114,000 for the current fiscal year.

The total budget for the program is $172,741. The budget covers the salaries and benefits for the counselor, the at-risk reading teacher and the K-6 at-risk activities coordinator.

By drawing down the district’s surplus for the at-risk program, Jensen said the district will need an additional $58,000 to cover the remaining budget expenses.

Taxing property owners $0.24 per $1,000 valuation for the 2010-2011 fiscal year will cover the $43,500, he said. The remaining $14,000 will be covered by local programs, he said.

While the school district is lowering taxes for the at-risk program, Jensen said the district will make up for it by raising taxes for the cash reserve levy to pay for the $313,000 state deficit.

“We can see that taxes will be a big issue,” Jensen said. “They are always a big issue, but we are going to make up that number somewhere else in asking. We are going to need to ask for some cash reserve to make up that $313,000. I am a believer in taxing ahead of time, a reasonable amount. The rainy day philosophy where you need to keep some around and this is a prime example. You can shift it, not tax for a year, and come back and tax for it someplace else.”

Jensen said the district will have to raise the property tax asking for the at-risk program for fiscal year 2011-2012 to maintain the program.

“Basically, you are going to lower this one and raise another,” said IV School Board member Dennis Roberts.

Iowa Valley business manager Lynda Johnson noted the at-risk program budget is categorical funding, which means the money in its budget can be spent only on at-risk or drop out prevention, and cannot be spent on general expenditures.

EARLY RETIREMENT

The Iowa Valley School Board approved to provide an early retirement incentive plan to certified employees for this school year. The school board will limit the benefit to two or three employees, based on financial constraints.

The employees accepted for early retirement will be based on a first come, first serve, basis.

The basic criteria to qualify for early retirement is the same as last year. The retiring employee must be at least 55 years of age and to have at least 13 years of contracted service with the school district.

As a benefit, the retiring employees will receive a one-time payment equal to 50 percent of their present annual salary, not including supplemental pay.

The school district does not furnish health insurance, but the employee may stay on the district’s plan at their own expense.

Last year, the IV School District had three individuals take the early retirement plan. The school district will save approximately $50,000 annually through their retirement, Jensen said.

This year, 10 employees are eligible for the early retirement plan, he said.

The one-time incentive payment is paid for with the school district’s management fund. If all 10 employees opted for early retirement, it would cost the school district $199,000, and the district only has $150,000 in the management fund, Jensen said.

IV financial manager Lynda Johnson said the district requires $90,000 to $100,000 annually from the management fund for normal yearly expenses. The current tax levy raises $75,000 a year for the management fund, she said.

Without raising the tax levy, Johnson said the district cannot afford to pay the incentive to no more than two retired employees out of the management fund.

School board member Mark Swift suggested the district should limit the early retirement incentive to the first two applicants.

School board president Jane Fry said she is hesitant to cap the plan at two employees. If there are three applicants, Fry said she would like the board to have the ability to offer the plan to all three applicants, should they be able to afford it.

“I think the board makes the determination based on the financial needs at the time of how many applications we pay,” Fry said.

Jensen said he does not believe the school district will have a problem with too many employees applying for the early retirement plan.

“The cap would definitely limit it at this time,” Jensen said. “The figures we shared tonight prove it is financially solvent. Let’s say we get three, I’m not too shy, I would probably be back to ask for three. You cannot afford five or six.”

The board approved to offer the early retirement plan with stipulation that the board has the right to limit the number of participants with the criteria being the date of the submission of the application.

PRE SCHOOL BUSSING

The Iowa Valley School District will begin bussing three- and four-year-old preschool students on the rural bus routes as weel as preschool students living in the area of the existing bus stop at the West Side Auto Wash on Highway 212.

Bus transportation would be provided on the existing morning and afternoon bus routes. 

Iowa Valley Superintendent Alan Jensen said the district will not have to add any new bus routes, but they will add four new bus stops to accommodate the preschool students.

Any additional cost will be minimal, Jensen said. The district may have to buy two or three safety harnesses at the cost of approximately $75 each to accommodate preschool students in the Headstart program.

Jensen said the school district would need a week or two preparation before implementing the new stops. The English Valleys School District has bussed preschool students for two years and have not had a problem, he said.

IV Elementary School Principal Cindy Miller said they have identified 14 preschool students who could take advantage of the service.

UPDATED December 2, 2009 2:18 PM

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