School district levy to decrease at least $1.08$6 million bond referendum may come in September
Even though the Washington School District is attempting to complete its budget without knowing the state’s final answer on allowable growth, Superintendent Mike Jorgensen said that taxpayers could expect to see at least a $1.08 decline in the school’s tax askings.
After attending a budgeting meeting Wednesday in Cedar Rapids hosted by the Grant Wood Area Education Agency, Jorgensen said that the school district had worked from the “worst case scenario” to finish the budget. He said the most the levy will be would be $14.65, a $1.08 per $1,000 of taxable valuation decline over last year. He also said, depending on what the state Legislature decides regarding school funding, the decline may be as much as $1.73 less than last year.
“Even at $1.08, that would be $2.75 less than it was three years ago,” Jorgensen said. “It is definitely heading in the right direction. I think where it ends up this year is where our levy is going to settle for the next few years. I don’t expect any big swings one way or the other in the next few years.”
He said the reason there has been such a reduction in the levy over the last few years is that the district is in better financial condition than it had been in the past and the district has caught up to the across-the-board cuts in state funding that had been made six years ago.
Finance director Jeff Dieleman said this morning that the numbers were generated without taking land valuation into account. He said the average valuation of land in the area hasn’t changed significantly over the last few years.
“If the valuation is up, a homeowner may not see as big of a reduction, but they will definitely see some reduction,” Dieleman said. “Valuation has not increased enough to completely offset the entire decrease.”
Jorgensen said the amount in the management account had been increased. He said the district was on a new insurance policy that is costly, but that funding comes from the management account. He said the district is also anticipating offering early retirement to faculty a year from now. He also said the district isn’t levying any cash.
While this fiscal year was a building year, seeing the opening of the new high school and the implementation of the high school’s 1:1 computer program, Jorgensen said the district is looking at some facilities projects this year. He believes the biggest thing will be addressing the boiler in the former junior high school.
He said the following year, the district may do a 1:1 initiative in the middle school. He also said that is the year the new Washington Kirkwood Center will open.
“I think 2014-15 will have a lot of major things going on, but I think 2013-14 will just be a continuation and follow-through of what we have in place.”
While no firm decision has been made, Jorgensen said it is possible the school board will hold a bond referendum for up to $6 million in September. If this option is elected by the school board, property taxpayers could see a tax increase of up to $1.20 per $1,000 of taxable valuation, which Jorgensen said is about the same amount that the levy will decrease. The referendum would install a geothermal temperature control system in the former junior high wing of the new high school as well as in Lincoln Elementary. It may also include an add-on to the middle school.