School board members have taken the first official step to potentially raise taxes for residents of the Cedar Rapids Community School District.
At Monday night’s regular meeting, the board approved publishing a fiscal year 2014 rate of $15.85 per $1,000 of taxable valuation, a 69-cent increase over the current $15.16 per $1,000.
“It protects the district to the maximum allowable rate,” said Superintendent Dave Benson, who presented the 2014 budget update to the board on Monday.
Benson noted that a number of unknowns will impact the district’s financial plans. Among those unclear details are the impact of federal sequestration, contracts resulting from negotiations with the district’s employee groups and unfunded mandates such as implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Another question mark which received attention during Monday’s meeting was allowable growth, the state’s measure for funding school districts. Legislators are still debating at what level to set allowable growth but Benson and members of the school board fervently argued in support of 4 percent.
Board Member John Laverty called that level “a minimum to get [the district] going” and urged parents to contact Gov. Terry Branstad and Linda Fandel, the governor’s special assistant for education, in support of 4-percent allowable growth.
“Those two folks need to hear loud and clear from our public that it’s not acceptable what they’re doing holding our Legislature hostage,” Laverty said.
Benson said that an adjustment in allowable growth will translate to a decrease in the district’s published 2014 tax rate, which the board has the option to lower, but not increase, before the state’s April 15 budget deadline.
Residents will have a chance to weigh in on the budget during a public hearing, which the board approved tonight, scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday, April 8. The board is then set to vote to approve the tax rate at a meeting later that evening.