OXFORD — With cuts in state aid a reality, further cuts a possibility, and the status of the current economy uncertain, school districts face the challenge of balancing current needs against future growth. The Board of Directors for the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) School District focused on developing a long-range facilities plan during a pair of meetings Nov. 18 at Clear Creek Elementary.
At a special meeting, the board laid a foundation by looking at updated revenue projections, projected enrollment levels through 2029, and the possibility of an additional 4-5 percent cut in the state budget.
Superintendent Dr. Paula Vincent explained how the amount of money received per student varies, depending on the county in which each student lives. Iowa County, which still uses the SAVE tax, is in a different funding plan than Johnson County, which carries the SILO tax. CCA receives $700 per student living in Iowa County, vs. $1,000 per student living in Johnson County. SILO funds are distributed to the schools by the state through a series of payments, but, Vincent noted, the state withholds the approximate amount of one payment.
If a district’s revenue increases, the district then receives a larger payment at the end of the fiscal year. On the other hand, if revenue decreases, the potential exists to not receive the final payment. Dr. Vincent said CCA was looking at about a $90,000 payment following an upward adjustment.
The board reviewed projections by the consulting firm Piper Jaffrey. Estimates show the district could net approximately $4.5 million by the end of the fiscal year. Using a conservative 2 percent growth in revenue and enrollment, the district could net around $10 million, though roughly half of the district’s revenue is already obligated from selling bonds for the athletic complex and auditorium.
Vincent suggested with an improvement in the economy the $10 million figure could increase, but for planning purposes they keep the variables “flat.”
“You have to, you really don’t want to spend money you might not have,” Vincent said. Currently, CCA would have a balance in the bank of just over $4 million by the end of the fiscal year, but with the payment schedule this could dip to around $3.9 million in the next two to three years, Vincent said.
“You have some revenue you can leave there gaining interest, or if you wanted to do the (inter-campus) road project, you probably have the dollars to do it without a huge risk,” Vincent said.
Vincent also touched on the possibility of an additional 4-5 percent across-the-board budget cut at the state level, as well as rumors the state could try to take back funds or even add a penny to the SILO tax.
The superintendent laid out a list of projects including roadway, sidewalks, and tunnel connections; turning the entrances around at the middle school so the main entrance faces the high school; a block building for the bus barn; air conditioning for the non-A/C buildings or parts of buildings; and the ever-present question of what to do with the remaining athletic fields (baseball and softball diamonds).
Vincent asked the board if they even wanted to do a project at all, and if so, which one.
“We need to be conservative,” Kevin Kinney said. “We don’t know if this economy is going to improve.”
“Tiffin to me is the next natural project, to prepare our school for the Ireland Avenue project,” Board President Tim Hennes said, saying the middle school work could be done in phases.
Kathi Huebner asked about enrollment projections and if building additions would be needed, and Vincent replied enrollment numbers look to be holding steady for the next four years.
“Within five years, we may need to look at changes,” Vincent added.
As the board reviewed estimates from Shive-Hattery for the road and trail work, Vincent reminded them they could authorize a design phase without obligation to build, and that multiple decision points are built into the process.
Hennes suggested starting the design phase soon, to be ready to proceed with the work over the summer.
With a better understanding of the situation and available options, part of the regular monthly meeting was dedicated to furthering the plan. A motion was made by Vice President Betsy Momany, with a second by Mick Kahler, to direct the Superintendent to work with Shive-Hattery on the development of a concept plan for the roadway and trail system. It also would include relocating the main entrance to the middle school, with recommendations for phasing the project. The motion passed unanimously.