DONNELLSON – The Central Lee School District’s 2023-24 financial picture looks very similar to previous years, but not all ‘Is have been dotted and Ts have been crossed'.
At Tuesday morning’s Central Lee School Board workshop, the board heard from Superintendent Dr. Andy Crozier about how the finances for the upcoming year is shaping up.
A correction in how multi-residential properties are assessed by the state has given school districts an additional 30 days this year to have budgets finalized.
The district is looking at a 10.67 levy, which includes a $2.16 debt service levy on Central Lee’s bonded debt. The district can levy up to $2.70 per the $13 million construction bond issued when the district improved district facilities.
But Crozier said that’s an issue for further diligence.
“I think we need to do some more learning about the benefits of that process and obviously spend time educating our constituents,” Crozier said.
“Just because we have the authority to do so, doesn't mean it's in the best interest of our community. Our board has always done a nice job of getting feedback on these types of things before making any changes.”
The district is also considering bumping the levy on the management fund. Crozier said for each $100,000 the district adds to the management fund, an increase of just under 25 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation is incurred.
“If we add $200,000 you can see that levels off that line a little more,” Crozier said pointing to a map on the wall showing how the fund will bottom out after a couple years if nothing is done.
Board President Mark Hulsebus said that’s an issue that the board needs to consider heavily. Crozier said he’d like to see about $500,000 in the fund year over year.
The management fund can be used for property & casualty insurance, worker's compensation, early retirement incentives, local government risk pools, equipment break/fix, unemployment, and mediation/litigation.
“We have already paid our insurance bill for the year so the remaining expenditures for the year will be limited. We did offer a small early retirement package, but only have three staff members who qualify for that which will be paid out this summer.”
The $10.70 levy is a preliminary number that will likely move slightly depending on how valuation and income tax updates come in.
Crozier said the district currently has an income surtax as part of its revenue stream. He said that helps balance the demand as it’s a tax on income tax.
“For example, when I do my taxes, at the end of the process, the income surtax percent is calculated based off my qualified state income tax. It's a means for leveling the playing field between property owners and income earners,” Crozier said.
“This allows for individuals who own little property but make a lot of money to pay their fair share. Farmers like the income surtax and individuals who do not own a lot of property are not as big of fans. Balance is best when utilizing income surtax.”
The district’s current levy of $10.76/$1,000 is the lowest of the seven closest schools. Fort Madison’s $11.76 is the second lowest in the grouping. Keokuk’s current levy is $15.29, the second highest with New London at $15.68.
Central Lee is also the only district in the state that currently has no voted or regular Physical Plant and Equipment Levy. But part of the reason is that the district just put $13 million into upgrades that were completed two years ago and don’t have a lot of physical improvement needs at this point.
The district generates about $3.4 million in property tax and receives $5.6 million in state aid, the rest of the funds supporting the district’s $13 million budget comes from open enrollment.
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