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School district may receive increase in state aid

BY ALISON KEIM | FEBRUARY 11, 2014 5:00 AM

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Iowa’s public school districts are on track to getting a raise.

The state Senate recently passed two bills for a 6 percent increase in state aid for the 2015-2016 school year for state schools.

State aid — also known as allowable growth — is the percentage increase of the state per-pupil cost to be calculated for the upcoming budget year. The allowable spending authority is based on state aid and property taxes.

“It is how we operate each year under the school-aid formula,” said Craig Hansel, the Chief Financial Officer for the Iowa City Community School District. “If we don’t receive any growth in our cost, then that constrains our ability to deliver our educational program.”

Under the proposed 6 percent increase, equaling $222.5 million, state aid per pupil in Iowa’s public elementary and secondary schools would increase by $382 to $6,748 in fiscal 2016. Last session, the Legislature passed, and Branstad signed, a 4 percent increase for the 2014-15 school year that will increase basic state aid by $245 per pupil to $6,366.

However, the state law limits how much the school districts are allowed to spend of that money, as well as how it can be spent.

“Eighty-one cents out of every dollar that we spend is for the people, and if our budget isn’t allowed to grow at all, and people expect wage adjustments, or inflationary cost for supplies and equipment, then we have to go in and reduce our budget in some pretty significant ways in order to get that means,” Hansel said. “We are a very people-driven organization, and we offer a service that’s delivered by the number of people we have on staff to do that.”

The House still has to pass the bill, and then Gov. Terry Branstad may or may not sign it.

The local School District hopes to use the increase of funding for wages, transportation, curriculum, as well as several other services that the board feels is necessary to give students the best education possible.

“As long as they have the same enrollment or higher, they will actually realize that growth [in overall cost],” said Galen Howsare, deputy executive director of Iowa Association of School Boards. “But if the student count goes down, then that negates the increase in cost.”

Hansel said the allowable growth is what School Districts rely on to continue to operate the educational program to the best of their ability.

School District officials believe by providing the additional 6-percent increase, they will be able to increase the overall students’ education along with it.

Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, agreed.

“Six percent is obviously the responsible thing to do,” Jacoby said. “If they are hoping to teach our students in the education program to the best of their ability, then they need to be giving them the opportunity to do so, and that would be by providing the increase necessary.”


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