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Cash reserves pay for elementary hires

By B. Adam Burke
North Liberty Leader
IOWA CITY– Flat education funding from Des Moines has kept the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) staffing levels similarly flat this year, despite an increase in student enrollment of over 400. On Dec. 6, the school board gave the go-ahead to use some of the district’s financial cushion to ease large class sizes, especially at the elementary level.
The board confirmed an earlier suspension of the Superintendent’s limitation on unspent, unreserved cash for the 2011-2012 school year, using up all but three percent of the cash account. The board set the 2012-2013 limit to four percent, and the district plans to be back to five percent cash reserves by fiscal year 2014.
District cash reserves are required to be kept at a floor of five percent to minimize risk for unexpected expenses, and a ceiling of 10 percent to make sure school districts continue to spend money.
This month, school board member Tuyet Dorau filed a critical report on the matter. She asked if the board was “being thoughtful in our planning,” and said, “Without having a clear understanding of the future financial implications, I believe it unwise to make recommendations that could put our district into financial harm.”
Dorau filed her minority report as a member on the Governance Committee. Sarah Swisher and Marla Swesey are the other board representatives on the committee.
Longfellow Elementary parents made their case for increasing staff levels at the Dec. 6, meeting and in an email sent on behalf of Longfellow parents by Dan Shaw of Iowa City.
Shaw said the third/fourth- and fifth/sixth-grades at Longfellow, “should not bear the brunt of this year’s budget shortages and zero-growth policy so inequitably.”
Superintendent Steve Murley met with Longfellow parents on Dec. 1, and with the roughly $1 million in payroll from the district’s reserve funds, will address priority staffing needs according to district policy for class sizes.
According to an ICCSD administration report, a total payroll projection for 13 elementary teaching positions ranged from $615,000 to $910,000. Of the 13 potential hires, at least six teachers will be placed at non-Title I buildings in first – second grades (and at Lincoln, third grade) and at least four are needed in classrooms of over 22 students in Title I buildings in kindergarten through second grades.
According to the report, likely placements for at least half-time teacher slots include Coralville Central, Garner, Hills, Kirkwood, Lincoln, Longfellow, Penn, Van Allen, and Wickham Elementary.
In another budget item, the district paid Shive-Hattery $54,746 for design work on the City High Fine Arts addition and $18,633 for relocating industrial technology classrooms to the physical plant.