The Cherokee Community School District Board of Education last week unanimously approved the 2012-2013 estimated Fiscal Year budget totaling an estimated $14,550,089 in Total Requirements (certified maximum ceiling), and a Total Spending Authority (TSA) of an estimated $13 million.
The approved budget establishes a decreased Property Tax Levy rate of $14.68 per $1,000 of property tax valuation, compared to the last fiscal year's $15.28 levy, which was 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 April 15.
The TSA was arrived at by totaling the Combined District Cost, the prior year's Unspent Balance, Instructional Support, Pre-School Foundation Aid, and Miscellaneous Income.
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.
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.
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 cautioned that all rural Iowa Districts continue facing declining enrollment projections. Currently, the District's enrollment count is certified at 932.2 students K-12, a 15-percent drop in six years, when the District enrollment was 1,090, but with this year's totals idenitical to last year's.
Chalstrom also advised the Board that the average expenses (inflation) for all Iowa Districts increased by 4-percent last year.
As usual, no District residents attended last week'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 financial business in a prudent and beneficial manner.