Iowa City school board votes yes to change 2014 fiscal budget


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After no debate Tuesday night with the Iowa City community, Iowa City School Board members unanimously voted to pass the 4 percent increase in potential allowable growth rate.

Iowa legislators must now vote to set an allowable growth rate, and district officials hope they keep the Iowa City recommendation in mind.

The board will file the proposal with the county auditor on April 15.

The board discussed the budget in-depth at their previous meeting, with concerns from the chief financial officer Craig Hansel as well as board members.

“Right now, 4 percent allowable growth is the highest tax rate — if we receive something under that, then we’ll receive less,” Hansel said. “We published what we felt would be the highest tax rate we expect.”

The allowable-growth rate determines how much the state and district spend per student from one year to the next. Gov. Terry Branstad has proposed a 0 percent allowable growth, which would cause the districts to spend the same on each student as the previous year.

The projected expenditure budget per student for fiscal 2014 is $10,282 per student, but Hansel said this isn’t necessarily what the district would spend. It serves more as a cap on spending. The majority of expenditures on students come from instruction, administration, and maintenance.

This topic was up for discussion; however, no member of the board or the public chose to comment.
Although there was no discussion, one board member did not necessarily feel satisfied with the vote.

“The issue is a lot of unknown,” board member Jeff McGinness said, noting a decision hasn’t been made at the state level. “I didn’t want to artificially cap ourselves. Honestly, I’m not sure if it matters right now if we call, email, or signal to legislators what we’re doing. I’ve talked to legislators, and unfortunately, I don’t know who’s dragging their feet [in this decision].”

The district spends substantially less per student than other districts across the country. In order to raise the money spent per student to the national average, the state would have to use an allowable-growth rate of 16 percent.

The Iowa House of Representatives proposed a growth rate of 2 percent, and the Senate proposed a 4 percent rate, the same recommendation the School Board made.

Board member Patti Fields said the district wanted to be proactive in the decision, even if other districts have not been.

“The [legislators] could make a decision anywhere between 0 and 4 percent,” she said. “We hope there’s no 0 percent. Right now, that’s what it’s at, so a lot of districts assume the 0 percent.”

The board was pleased with the speedy decision of the proposal and is also excited for the next step of the decision by legislators.

“We always want more,” McGinness said. “Because you’re talking about more money for the education, which helps hiring teachers and creating smaller class sizes.”

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