BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – With the Fort Madison School District just now starting their budgeting process, early numbers could possibly show a drastic reduction in the levy rate for next year.
District Business Manager Sandy Elmore told the board that all numbers are very preliminary and state aid numbers are also not certain, but with increased valuations for the county projected at close to $733 million, the district could see a tax rate below $13 for the first time in a while.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said in her State of the State address that she’d like to see the legislature approve 2.3% in allowable growth for the state’s public school systems.
Board member Dianne Hope said that’s just a starting point and, by the time the figure is included in the state’s budget, it could be drastically reduced.
But board member Lois DiPrima, who had taken over reporting legislative issues to the board, said the last memos she seen indicate that lawmakers are favorable to the growth rate.
“I think this might get pushed through,” DiPrima said.
The state aid formula and allowable growth will be critical to this year’s school budget. During budget workshops last year, the district wasn’t allowed to take advantage of gap funding due to a formula based on previous year’s enrollment.
But Elmore said the district is looking at a loss of 43 students for the 2019-20 fiscal year with student enrollment at 2,109. In the current fiscal year, the per pupil state funding is $6,664 per person. If the proposed rate goes up, that would move the per pupil rate to $6,736.
That additional funding, accompanied with the increased county valuation, could put the district in a position where they could see $145,000 in new money at the current levy, or they could reduce the rate and ask for the same dollars that were needed to fund the district last year.
Elmore said the district was short about $130K last year, but were able to make up the funds through attrition wherever possible and cutting here and there across the funds.
The district also approved last year an Instructional Support Levy that is made up of a property tax element that’s included in the current $14.44/$1,000 assessed valuation, as well as income surtax.