School District OKs $11 million budget

Monday, April 14, 2008

New levy of $14.63 down from last year's $15.45

After seeing and hearing a detailed power point presentation from Superintendent Dr. John Chalstrom, the Cherokee Community School District Board of Education Monday night unanimously approved the 2008-2009 budget, carrying a Total Spending Authority of $11,031.975.

Most importantly, the approved budget establishes a levy of $14.63 per $1,000, which is down from last year's $15.45 per $1,000 levy.

"We're below state average," praised Chalstrom, who pointed out that the District has brought property tax relief of nearly $2 per $1,000 from previous years. Historically, the District levy rates have been much higher, reaching $16 or $17 at times.

Chalstrom emphasized that this reflects positively on the current and past school boards as being good stewards of District's finances, despite the continual decline of enrollment and dwindling state aid monies because of such shrinking enrollments.

"The bottom line is the District is very healthy regarding cash solvency. We're in a nice position," said Chalstrom, who also applauded the fact that LOST (Local Option Sales Tax) revenues have allowed the District to pay off bonded indebtedness without any property tax levy needed.

However, Chalstrom cautioned board members and administrators to help the District guard against any possible future and unforeseen budget pit falls due to the rising costs associated with gasoline, utility, and food prices.

Chalstom also lauded the District and past boards and administrators for doing a good job of dealing with expenditures and revenues on a yearly basis, rather than procrastinating on, or pigeon-holing possible problems that would negatively impact the budget.

The $11 million budget arrived at its Total Spending Authority (TSA) with Combined District Cost totaling $7,272,042; prior year's unspent balance of $1,720,000; Instructional Support $194,343; Preschool Foundation Aid $179,690; and miscellaneous income $1,665,900.

The TSA limits the money the District can spend, rules overspending a violation of state law, and identifies unspent balance as unused TSA that is not cash.

In explaining the latter, Chalstrom reiterated that the unspent balance gives the District a line of credit and the authority to get cash if needed via levy, but that it is not cash in and of itself.

The Combined District Cost is determined by a state formula from the Iowa Department of Management, and weighted enrollment times District cost per pupil as determined by the state.

Miscellaneous Income is from Federal, State, and Local sources. Examples would be General Fund revenue, Federal and Phase monies, transportation reimbursement, State grants, student fees, open enrollment and tuition, and interest.

Of the Fiscal Year 2008-09 Total Tax Levy, 57-percent is State controlled, 22-percent voter controlled, and 21-percent Board controlled.

State controlled is the Combined District Cost; voter controlled are the 3-year ISP levy, voter PPEL funds, and debt; and Board controlled are the cash reserve levy, regular PPEL funds, dropout, and management levy.

Above it all, Chalstrom emphasized the fact that enrollment drives the budget and that the Board must act on that issue yearly and, perhaps, make some hard, tough decisions as it plays out to keep the District's finances in their current positive position.

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