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ICCSD preliminary budget relies on assumptions, waits on state aid

IOWA CITY– Craig Hansel, chief financial officer/board of education secretary of the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD), began finalization of the fiscal year 2015 budget by reviewing the certified budget assumptions at the school board Operations Committee meeting on Jan. 28.
Hansel discussed a potential increase in property taxes.
“Last year we were able to lower the levy rate by 38 cents, the year before that it was also lowered. We have two things that are going to work against us this year. The (residential property tax) rollback is actually going up from 52.8 to 54.4 percent,” said Hansel. “That in itself, even if we didn’t change the levy rate, would require more from our patrons.”
The increase in the residential rollback rate combined with a state-legislated commercial property tax rollback– about 5.4 cents on the levy, Hansel said– will likely create a need for the district to increase its levy. ICCSD’s current levy is $13.69 per $1,000 of assessed value. According to Hansel, that rate is 33 cents below average over 364 school districts in Iowa. This year, an Iowa City resident with a home valued at $200,000 paid a little over $1,445 in school district taxes after the residential rollback.
“(Supplemental state aid) was set last year for budget 2015 at four percent, “said Hansel, referring to the increase in per-pupil funding the state provides to schools, also known as allowable growth. “I’m told that there is a running debate right now between the two parties on whether or not they’re going to actually adhere to the law and set allowable growth for (the 2016) budget by the end of February. I am skeptical.” If the legislature does not set a supplemental state aid budget as required, Hansel indicated he would make assumptions in order to run budget scenarios, using two percent allowable growth until the final number is decided.
“We wait on their action,” he added.
School Board Member Tuyet Dorau referred to recent comments by Rep. Bobby Kaufmann (R-Wilton) about the legislature’s statutory requirement for setting supplemental state aid. Rep. Kaufmann offered these remarks in an email to the Leader.
“State law directs the legislature (to certify) the allowable growth number 30 days after the governor provides his budget. The state has done a poor job of following this.” Governor Branstad proposed his budget on Jan. 14, which means the legislature would have until Feb. 13 to pass a FY2016 school aid bill in order to comply with current law.
State Senator Bob Dvorsky (D-Coralville), chairman of the senate appropriations committee, said he supported the six percent allowable growth legislation for academic year 2015-2016 proposed by the Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate.
“But it seems to be partisan and I doubt if the Iowa House will deal with it,” Dvorsky said in an email. If the legislature waits until the next session to set future allowable growth, school districts will be left with guesswork and assumptions as the budget certification deadline approaches, as Hansel indicated.
Additional details about the ICCSD budget assumptions are available on the website: http://www.iowacityschools.org/pages/ICCSD/board/The_ICCSD_Board_of_Educ.... Click on the link for the Jan. 28 meeting.
On Feb. 11 the board’s Operations Committee is scheduled to report to the full school board, with a subsequent review of the preliminary budget on Feb. 25. On March 11, the board will hear recommendations from Superintendent Stephen Murley and establish a public hearing date on the finalized budget, anticipated to be held April 8. State law requires the budget to be certified with the Iowa Department of Management by April 15.