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School board to see lower property tax rate this year

BY DEREK KELLISON | APRIL 04, 2012 6:30 AM

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Area residents will see a smaller increase on their School District taxes in the coming year.

The School District voted unanimously to approve the district's 2012-13 budget, which would set the district property tax rate at 14.07 percent per $100,000 of taxable property, a decrease from last year's 14.59 percent.

Residential rollback also increased — credit that decides what property taxpayers pay per $100,000, increased 2.2 percent, leading to $714.08 in taxes per $100,000 of taxable property.

Board members said the rate decreased largely because of funds from more than 400 additional students enrolling this year.

District officials said they were glad to see residents would have less of a tax burden because of the decrease.

"We as a district have to be respectful of property taxpayers," he said. "With the decrease in property taxes, we can protect the interests of parents and the futures of our kids."

Allowable growth — or the amount the state allows districts to spend each year — also increased by 2 percent, allowing for a general fund budget of $127 million. Board Vice President Patti Fields said the increase would benefit the schools.

"Because of the lowering rate, we are able to maintain current levels of staffing and class sizes," she said.

The district saw 0 percent allowable growth this year, leading to concerns over faculty funding and class sizes. Superintendent Steve Murley said this year's allowance would not threaten classes.

"Class sizes for the next year will be continued," he said. "Because schools change from level to level there will be some variation on where students are. Because we're replacing staff that are retiring this year, we anticipate being able to hold class sizes steady."

Board member Sara Swisher said the same estimates may not be completely accurate until classes actually start.

"With the extra hirings, we know that there will be places that are swelling a bit," she said. "It's hard to estimate how much growth we will have next year."

Fields said the additional allowable growth would allow the district to continue hiring reserve teachers in the event currently employed teachers retire or quit.

"In past years, there have been extra banks of teachers that have been in place," Fields said. "Because of the 0 percent growth, we have not been able to have reserve staff."

She said reserve staff help account for retiring staff and other factors that result in vacant staff positions, also alleviating potentially large class sizes.

However, Murley said these faculty would only be reserved for elementary schools.

"With the allowed growth we are able to have secondary staff at the elementary level, not secondary, because it is too hard to anticipate where to install these positions," he said.

Last year, the district came out with a $6 million net gain in general fund income, opposed to a $2 million loss the year before.

Fields said the board hopes to fulfill certain goals in future years with the budget.

"By the end of the year, we plan not to have any deficit," she said. "We also hope to address facility needs, but after that the next focus is future plans for infrastructure and school buildings."


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