At its April meeting, the Central Lee Board of Education approved the district’s tax levy for the 2023-24 school year.
The district was able to drop the tax rate another 3 cents from the previous year, to a rate of $10.73 per $1,000 of taxable property value. We also were able to maintain the income surtax percentage at 3 percent. In 2018, the district had a tax rate of $12.19 and an income surtax rate of 9 percent. We have been able to realize a significant decrease over the past six years, even with a general obligation bond for capital improvements.
Statewide, Iowans are concerned about property taxes. Those concerns are magnified by the fact that most property owners have seen notable increases in their assessed valuations. It is important to understand, however, that property valuations and the school district portion of property taxes will not necessarily increase at the same rates.
Public school districts are fairly limited in what we can modify in our tax levies. Unlike other entities, if we give employees a 4 percent increase in compensation, we do not necessarily have the authority to increase property taxes to pay for it. Much of our levy is automated and includes a large portion of state funding. Thus, the discussion around our tax levy related largely to our management fund, physical plant and equipment levy (PPEL), and cash reserve levy. The district has very little flexibility outside of those areas.
Central Lee is in its best financial position in over two decades primarily due to our increasing enrollment and sound financial management. We have experienced these budgetary successes while also providing salary increases and retention bonuses for staff. We have increased staffing numerous times over the past seven years, including at the high school for computer science, work-based learning, and math. At the K-8 level, we have added additional elementary sections and middle school core teachers. With continued enrollment growth on the way, we are investing in our schools so that we can continue to improve at everything we do.
Last year, I referenced a changing tide in public education funding. This tide could become a tsunami in the years ahead. This past year, the state legislature chose to fund private schools over public schools with an investment of $1 billion over the next four years. When you couple that with drastic changes in the tax code over the next few years, there will likely be limited funds available for public education. We have the right to be concerned about the financial stability of Central Lee based on decisions being made in Des Moines.
We are also hearing a lot of negativity about public schools from our state leaders. We must keep in mind the incredible dedication of our teachers and staff to the students of Central Lee. While they may not get the support they deserve from the state level, they are tireless in their efforts to provide the best possible learning experiences to our students.
I suggest that we ignore the noise from the media and legislators, and instead thank and appreciate the educators in our local community for everything they do. Without them, we would truly be lost.
Dr. Andy Crozier
Central Lee Superintendent
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