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Slight decline in tax rate for CCA taxpayers

Board looks at FY15 budget

AMANA–The board of directors of the Clear Creek Amana Community School District (CCA) discussed the district’s budget in a work session preceding the regular monthly meeting Wednesday, March 12, at Amana Elementary.
“There could be changes to the total numbers,” board secretary Lori Robertson said, “but there will not be changes to the proposed tax rate.”
The district proposes a tax rate of $15.27 per $1,000 taxable valuation, down from the current rate of $15.31. Taxpayers outside of Amana will be assessed $15.06, as Amana residents pay a $.20 levy for the community library, which is part of the elementary school.
The impact on the tax levy was a key argument in the campaign for the district’s $48 million bond referendum, which passed in February. The bonds, which will be sold in two parts, will pay for a parcel of land on the east side of Tiffin to build a new elementary school, planned to open in the fall of 2015. Also, an expansion of the middle school in Tiffin should be completed in fall 2015. An expansion is planned for the high school in 2016, including additional classrooms and a practice gym. Amana Elementary will see heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) improvements as well as an upgrade to the building’s electrical system.
Throughout the campaign, district administration and bond supporters stressed that the tax levy would not increase, and used it as a selling point, making the reduction welcome news. The district continues to see not only an increase in its student population, but also in property tax revenue. In 2013 the district took in $9,599,051 in property tax and anticipates $11,227,382 for 2015.
With the increase in students, which necessitated the construction projects, the district also will see an increase in state funding. The state funnels money to school districts with a standard amount on a per-pupil basis. CCA has seen the total, based on annual certified enrollment in October, rise from $7,879,879 in 2013 to a re-estimated $8,775,534 for 2014.
Re-estimated figures take into account additional expenses incurred, or revenue anticipated through June 30, the end of the fiscal year.
The district expects to receive $10,169,718 in state aid for 2015.
Overall, the district expects to take in $71,202,580, down somewhat from the re-estimated 2014 amount of $85,533,369. However it is significantly more than 2013’s actual income of $46,270,582.
On the expenditure side of the ledger the district expects to spend $14,800,000 in instructional costs, up from the 2014 re-estimated total of $13,315,000. Instructional costs includes teacher salaries and costs related to educating the students. Transportation costs have also gone up due to rising fuel costs and the addition of bus routes. CCA expects to spend $1,450,650 for fiscal year 2015, up from the 2014 re-estimated amount of $1,260,650.
A public hearing on the proposed budget is scheduled for Wednesday, April 9, at Clear Creek Elementary in Oxford at 7 p.m. The board will vote on whether or not to approve the budget later that evening.
Also on the agenda for April 9 is a public hearing on an amended FY 2014 budget. Robertson explained the amendment is necessary to account for changes through June 30, and is required so that the district does not exceed its spending authority.
Instructional spending has changed from $12,255,000 to $13,500,000 because of additional staff hired due to increased enrollment, and a change in account coding by the state Department of Education (DOE). Some computer purchases the district made this year had to be budget coded as instructional rather than technology due to a reinterpretation by the DOE.
The largest jump from the original 2013-2014 budget is $32,000,000 under total other expenditures, which increased from $13,213,824 due to costs associated with refunding (refinancing) outstanding general obligation bonds and the pending new construction. While ground has yet to be broken on the construction projects, the district has bills to pay related to design work and the actual land purchase, necessitating the change.
Robertson acknowledged she added in some wiggle room to the amended budget, and superintendent Tim Kuehl noted, “we err on the side of high expenditures and low revenues.”