Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

Local News

April 18, 2011

School board approves FY 2011-12 budget with property tax increase

CENTERVILLE — An at times tense and combative public hearing on the school board's proposed budget was held Tuesday, April 12 before the regular meeting. The board ultimately approved 7-0 the budget as proposed, with a $1.38 property tax increase and tried to explain the need for an increase to the audience in attendance.

Several audience members questioned the board about the proposed property tax increase from $17.59 per $1,000 of valuation to $18.97 per $1,000 of valuation. One question raised was why the school needed to raise taxes when there has been declining enrollment for several years. They also questioned if cuts could be made in staff, bus routes or construction costs rather than raising taxes.

Board members made the case that they haven't raised taxes in several years and have been cutting staff positions for the past several years by not replacing people as they retire or leave and that they have cut spending each year as much as they thought was possible. They argued that budget cuts, especially during the last few years and last year's across the board 10 percent budget cut after the school year began are the major reasons that the school is still in cash debt at this point.

Business manager, Dr. Marvin Judkins also pointed out that If the proposed allowable growth is passed at zero percent, that mean's more of the school's budget has to be raised through property taxes. Iowa school districts are also losing property tax relief money that in previous year's had been used to help keep property taxes down. Since, school budgets had to be certified, the board had to assume that there would be no allowable growth and no property tax relief next year and set the tax rate accordingly.

According to Judkins, If any legislation passes after the board sets the budget that sets allowable growth at higher than zero or returns money to property tax relief, the Department of Management will automatically lower the property tax asking. He said he didn't think there would be any allowable growth approved this year, but he thought property tax relief still had a chance for passage.

At the same time, the board was still in contract negotiations with employees, so they didn't know for sure what increased salary costs would be. They did know they would be required to make higher IPERS contributions. During the regular board meeting held after the budget hearing, the board approved next year's staffing plan, which included 13 reductions in positions.

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