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School Board OKs $11.3 million budget

Friday, April 15, 2011

Property Tax Levy up 8-cents to $15.28 per $1,000 valuation

The Cherokee Community School District Board of Education Monday night unanimously approved the 2011-2012 estimated Fiscal Year budget totaling an estimated $15,612,409 in total requirements (certified maximum ceiling), and a Total Spending Authority (TSA) of $11.3 million.

The 2010-2011 TSA totaled $10.9 million.

The approved budget establishes a slightly increased levy rate of $15.28 per $1,000 of property tax valuation, compared to the last fiscal year's $15.20 levy, which is up 8-cents per $1,000 over FY 2010-2011.

According to Cherokee Superintendent Dr. John Chalstrom, the new budget's levy rate is still among the lowest ever in the District, as current and past boards and administrators have sustained focus on dealing with expenditures and revenues on a yearly basis. For many years in the distant past, the levy rate was in the $16-$17 range, according to Chalstrom.

The budget was to be certified by today and proceeds with Iowa districts assuming the State Allowable Growth (A.G.) to be the predicted 0-percent as recommended by Governor Terry Branstad. The Legislature has yet to act on A.G. and if anything would change, the District would schedule a speciall session to amend the approved FY 2011-2012 budget based on the new A.G. number.

The TSA was arrived at by totaling the Combined District Cost of $7,953,556; the prior year's Unspent Balance of $1,900,000; Instructional Support $352,948; Pre-School Foundation Aid $151,781; and Miscellaneous Income $975,000.

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.

Chalstrom lauded the Board, and past boards and administrators, for being diligent and good stewards of the District's finances, despite dwindling enrollments and less State aid monies because of such shrinking enrollments.

The state's 10-percent cut across the board in October 2009 was another jolt for all Iowa School Districts, said Chalstrom. Another factor affecting budgets are the exorbitant fuel, utility, and food costs foisted on all school districts.

Chalstrom said he was pleased with the budget "given the many challenges we've had" the past few years. He also emphasized that increased property valuations have helped Iowa rural school districts and helped hold down the levy rates.

The Combined District Cost is determined by a State formula from the Iowa Department of Management, and weighted enrollment times the 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.

Chalstrom also cautioned that all rural Iowa Districts face declining enrollment projections. Currently, the District's enrollment count is certified at 932.3 students K-12, a 15-percent drop in six years, when the District enrollment was 1,090.

Of the District's TSA, the State controls Combined District Cost; the voters control the 5-year ISP levy, voter PPEL funds, and debt; and the Board controls cash reserve levy, regular PPEL funds, dropout, and management levy.

Although none are anticipated, unforeseen, major expenses, or an infrastructure calamity could possibly create such a situation that would threaten the Unspent Balance, which wisely is sustained year after year to cover exactly that.

The Unspent Balance is basically an incentive for school districts to not overspend, explained Chalstrom.

Chalstrom also informed the Board that continued declining enrollment, combined with the predicted 0-percent State Allowable Growth, will place the District in the position of reducing expenditures.

As usual, no District residents attended Monday's Budget Public Hearing, a persisting earmark of a combination of public apathy and an accurate public perception that present and past Cherokee School Boards and Administrations have proven to be erudite stewards of District finances and continue to take care of business in a proper and beneficial manner.

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