Central Lee in good financial shape - Letter to Editor


Dear Editor,

At its April meeting, the Central Lee Board of Education approved the district’s tax levy for the 2022-23 school year. The district was able to drop the tax rate another 40 cents from the previous year, to a rate of $10.76. We also were able to reduce the income surtax percentage from 5 percent to 3 percent. In 2018, the district’s tax rate was $12.19 and had an income surtax rate of 9 percent. That is quite a decline in five years. 

A number of items have affected our tax rate. The valuation of our district has dramatically increased due to utility valuation increases related to the new pipeline. The state legislature has increased property tax relief funds as part of state supplemental aid increases. However, when our legislators boast about increased funding for school districts, that is only partially true. Part of this investment never goes to school districts, but rather replaces property taxes with state aid, reducing the overall levy for our community. 

Central Lee is in its best financial position in over two decades primarily due to our increasing enrollment and numerous years of strong financial leadership. We have experienced these budgetary successes while also providing salary increases for our staff and retention bonuses. We have increased staffing numerous times over the past six years, and next year we will introduce computer science classes at our middle and high schools. Our enrollment will likely continue to grow, and we are investing in our schools so that we can continue to get better at everything we do.

While the tides have been in our favor the past few years, a storm in public education is beginning to brew. We can all appreciate a reduction in income taxes, but it’s important to understand that the “flat tax” passed by the state legislature could have extremely negative consequences for public schools in the future. This year, the legislature had 6 percent new money available but elected to allocate a mere 2.5 percent increase in state supplemental aid for public schools. Next year, the Revenue Estimating Conference has projected a decline in state revenues of 0.2 percent. This means the legislature will need to pull any increase for public education out of state reserves. The future looks even bleaker for 2024 when the REC projects a 2 percent decrease in state revenue. 

I hope, on behalf of our students and educators, that the legislature will find a way to prioritize public education funding in the future. Unfortunately, recent trends have me extremely concerned for Central Lee and all Iowa public schools. The negative impact of decreased or stagnant funding will be devastating to a system that has ranked 40th in the nation for increases in public education over the past five years. Our legislators were warned about all this by school superintendents, and yet the Iowa Senate still voted in favor of funding an entirely separate voucher system this past month. It certainly makes you scratch your head when you look at the decisions being made at the state level.

In the meantime, we will continue to serve ALL students and prioritize creating a culture of high expectations here in Central Lee. 

Dr. Andy Crozier
Central Lee Superintendent 

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