Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 21, 2018

Washington CDS FY 15 Budget

By Mike Jorgensen

The Washington Community School District budget for FY 15 will be published at the end of this month and the budget hearing will be held at the Regular Board Meeting on April 9 in Brighton.  The board will approve the budget during that meeting.  The estimated tax asking will be $14.05, which is 59 cents less than last year and $3.41 less than FY 11.  This article will display estimated numbers for the budget and discuss the different aspects of the budget.  These numbers are still considered estimates due to the state not yet finalizing some numbers, but will be very close to the final.  The published budget later this month will be final numbers.

Tax Rates
The following table shows the Washington CSD tax rate since FY 11.  The significance of FY 11 is that the $17.46 tax rate was an all time Peak for the district.  
The $14.05 project rate for FY 15 represents the lowest tax rate the district has seen in the last 20 years, a 19.5 percent decrease over the last five years and a rate that is pretty consistent with the state of Iowa average tax rate for school districts.

FY 11    $17.46
FY 12    $16.76
FY 13    $15.73
FY 14    $14.64
FY15    $14.05
Net result since FY 11    -$3.41 (19.5 percent)

State of Iowa Average    $14.02

The things that most affect a school budget are enrollments, valuations and levies that are assessed.  Lets take a look at trends for the district.

FY 11    1716.75
FY 12    1739.64
FY 13    1740.20
FY 14    1767,10
FY 15    1784.60

As you can see, the trend has been positive over the last five years.  We are at the largest enrollment since 1995, which was the last time the district was at 1800 students.   I do not expect any large spikes or decreases in the next few years.  The largest class in the district is currently in eighth grade, so five years from now, we may have to recover from a big graduating class.  In the meantime, it is expected that enrollments will remain stable.   The growth in enrollment each year has factored into the decrease in tax rates.

FY 14    $402,611, 465
FY 15    $405,602,989
This represents a $2.9 million increase in valuations, which is less than 1 percent increase.  The district’s valuations have been a slow increase each year.  This last year, the Legislature did some significant changes in rollbacks for farm land valuations and commercial property, but it still ended up balancing out in the end.  Increased valuations result in lower tax rates for the district.

This is the one area where the district can make some decisions.  The rest of the finance formula is locked in and doesn’t give a district much flexibility.  We cannot create or raise taxes to prevent making cuts.  We are allowed an authority by formula that we cannot exceed.    The following are examples of levies and how they relate to the school district.

Budget Guarantee
Schools are guaranteed 101 percent of the previous year’s budget.  If the school is going through declining enrollments and the state funding does not equal 101percent, the difference is made up through property taxes.   Washington has not been on the budget guarantee for the last five years and has not assessed this levy.

The Management Levy is used for Early Retirement, Property Insurance and Workman’s Compensation.  The district determines the amount to be levied for this account.  We are asking for $525,000 in Management funds next year, which is less than the previous year when we knew we were going to offer Early Retirement.

At Risk & Drop-Out Prevention
This levy is a formula-based amount that all districts can claim.  We have done so every year.  We use it to fund our Alternative Education program, At Risk Teachers and Behavior Interventionist as well as home work help programs.  Our request for next year is $302,000, which is about 5 percent over last year.

Physical Plant and Equipment Levy
There are two parts to this levy.  The Board can impose a 33-cent levy without voter approval.  We also have a $1 PPEL assessment that was voted on two years ago and approved for 10 years.  These funds are used for small repairs, technology purchases and bus purchases.   This levy has remained the same over the last 20 years.

Special Education Deficit
We have levied for this the last two years.  This is negative spending that is done due to our needs for Special Education.  Approximately $250,000 in Special Education funds are being levied back due to negative spending.   We have not levied for this for the last five years, so this is new.   However, we decreased Management by more than this amount to balance it out.

Bond Issues
Levies can be assessed due to new facility construction.  These take a 60 percent super majority approval of the voters to implement.  Washington has not levied any taxes for new construction since the Junior High Bond issue was passed in 1960 and paid off in 1980.
The Auditorium Committee has brought forth a bond issue petition, which the Washington CSD School Board has put to a vote, coming forth on April 1.  This bond issue will be for $1.1 million to finish off a project which has raised over $4.6 million in donations and grants.   If passed, the bond issue would assess 40 cents for the next 7 years at an interest rate less than 2 percent overall.  With the tax asking levy decreasing 59 cents, that means that even if the bond issue is passed, taxpayers would still be paying 19 cents less than last year.