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School budget hearing April 6

District to keep levy virtually unchanged for fourth year Comments taken by email

SOLON– The Solon Community School District (SCSD) will hold a public hearing for the 2020-2021 budget Monday, April 6, but don’t plan on attending.
Public comments on the $23,441,990 budget will be taken via email to School Board Secretary Kris Wentzien (kwentzien@solon.k12.ia.us) and read into the record.
Solon’s school board will be meeting virtually, with only Wentzien, SCSD Superintendent Davis Eidahl and either President Tim Brown or Vice-President Adam Haluska physically present. All other board members will virtually attend.
School board members set the public hearing date at a March 19 meeting during which they also granted Eidahl broad powers to keep the district operating during the COVID-19 outbreak.
At the meeting, Board President Brown said recent state action removed the penalty for not certifying the budget on time. The SCSD could choose to not certify and would not have to file for an extension, he said.
“In my mind, the best thing is to move forward with it and if we wind up not being able to do it for whatever reason, we’ve got that in our back pocket,” Brown said. “But at least we tried to move forward with the proposed budget.”
The only down side, he noted, would be committing to budget numbers knowing the information is imperfect.
“I’m not sure it buys us much to hold off on it,” he added.
District Business Manager Pat Moore agreed, noting the state had indicated there would be latitude to address emerging issues.
As it stands now, she said, the budget is based on a 2.3 percent increase in state aid.
The district is proposing to spend $11.377 million on instruction and $6.539 million for support services (instructional support, administration, transportation) and $4.373 million for debt service, facilities and non-instructional programs.
The Solon school income surtax will drop from five to four percent and the district will maximize its cash reserve levy, Moore said.
“It’s been a while since we have done that,” she observed.
Property tax asking for debt service will drop considerably, she said, as the district will utilize SAVE (Secure an Advanced Vision for Education) sales tax dollars to pay the interest on general obligation bonds.
Money diverted from debt service will also supplement the Management Fund as well as bond registration costs for next year only, Moore added.
The tax rate for the district will remain virtually unchanged, at $16.25045 per $1,000 valuation.
“We’re putting together a budget that will flat line and keep the tax rate exactly the same as it has been the previous three years,” Eidahl pointed out to board members. “That will be four consecutive years we kept the tax rate as is.”
The tax rate is currently $16.24888, Moore said.
Due to actions taken to reduce public gatherings, Brown noted the board would meet electronically for the budget hearing, with all comments emailed to Wentzien, who will read them into the record.
“I guess it doesn’t matter what time you set the public hearing for because there’s not going to be anyone here for you to talk to,” Brown said.
Board members unanimously approved the public hearing date for Monday, April 6, at 5:30 p.m.
The board also rescheduled a public hearing on the 2020-2021 school calendar for the same date.
The hearing had been set for the March 19 meeting, but was postponed.
Brown said he had discussed the hearing with Eidahl in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“I’m kind of torn on whether or not we reschedule this, or we just let it go,” he noted.
In February, board members adopted a 2021-2022 calendar that started school on a Monday instead of mid-week, and was poised to consider a similar change for the upcoming school year.
Eidahl explained the recommendation came out of a teacher advisory group and would provide the high school with another day of instruction for the first semester. The first Monday and Tuesday would become half-days under the proposal.
Board members agreed to accept written comments only and hold the hearing April 6, at 5:25 p.m.