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District deals with legislative uncertainty

CCA approves 2013-2014 budget
CCA School Board members Aimee Pitlick and Jim Seelman digest board secretary Lori Robertson’s budget presentation during a March 13 work session. (photo by Chris Umscheid)

AMANA– Every spring, school districts across Iowa draw up a budget for the next school year and certify it. It’s the art of speculation coupled with the science of fiscal reality.
The speculation comes, especially this year, as districts wonder what the state legislature will do in terms of the amount of state aid they will allocate to the districts. The allocation, known as allowable growth, can range from a zero percent increase to two or even four percent. Democrats have called for a four percent increase while Republicans are holding firm at two percent. Additionally, allowable growth has been tied in with proposals for education reform. Without a firm answer as to what the state will do, districts like Clear Creek Amana (CCA) have had to figure out their budget with a huge question mark hanging over them.
The CCA board of directors certified their 2013-2014 budget Wednesday, March 13, during their regular monthly meeting at Amana Elementary. The district anticipates needing $43,314,555, which is higher than last year’s certified budget of $36,429,681. However, the 2012-13 budget was amended to $45,191,754 Wednesday night due to receipt of an almost $1 million PEP Grant and refunding of $7.1 million of General Obligation (GO) bonds.
The tax levy, based on four percent allowable growth, is $15.48 per $1,000 of taxable valuation. The amount includes a $0.20 levy for the Amana library; meaning taxpayers outside of Amana will actually see a levy of $15.28, which is slightly lower from last year. The decrease marks the third straight year of a lower levy. If the allowable growth is less than four percent the amount will be adjusted downward as well.
Allowable growth comes into budgets when factoring how much per-student funding the district receives from the state. Currently CCA receives $6,037 per student in what is known as the “cost per student,” which varies from district to district based on several factors. The regular program district cost is funded by two revenue sources, state aid and property taxes. A two percent increase in allowable growth would net the district $6,158 per student, a three percent increase would provide $6,218 and the hoped-for four percent would yield $6,278 per pupil. The certified enrollment for CCA for the current school year is 1,671, up from 1,576 last year, continuing the district’s enrollment growth trend.
The board also approved a Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) budget of $1,368,747, lower from the previous year’s projected amount of $1,407,834. PPEL funds go toward four specific categories: transportation, site improvements, building improvements and technology and equipment. In addition, the School Improvement Local Option tax (SILO) budget was approved. The district anticipates a decrease in SILO revenue from both Iowa and Johnson counties with $240,000 projected from Iowa county and an even $1 million from Johnson. Fiscal Year 2013 projections were for $269,246 and $1,033,229 respectively. SILO dollars are earmarked for repayment of bonds and maintenance projects.
Public hearings were held during the meeting for amending the current budget as well as approving the 2013-2014 budgets without comment.
The next board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, April 17, at Clear Creek Elementary in Oxford.