More of the same could be on the horizon for taxpayers if Cedar Rapids Community School District administrators get their wish.
Executive Director of Business Services Steve Graham is set to recommend at the Monday, March 10 meeting that the school board publish a $15.48 per $1,000 in taxable valuation overall tax levy rate for the 2015 fiscal year; which would mean the rate would remain unchanged from fiscal year 2014.
“I think it certainly adds stability and predictability for local taxpayers,” Graham said. “The recommendation to publish a levy rate that is equal to the existing levy rate is indication of the district’s sensitivity to the public and the local property tax payers.”
If the board follows through, it could be a welcome change of pace from a year ago when members approved what ultimately resulted in a 32-cent increase in the tax rate which was at $15.16 per $1,000 in 2013.
If the board approves publishing the unchanged rate on Monday, that would not make it final. Board members would still have the option to alter the figure, though only by making it lower, before they vote to certify the final budget by the Tuesday, April 15 deadline.
The tax rate is one part of the 2015 budget discussion the board will have on Monday, which is set to include a vote on scheduling a public hearing on the proposed 2015 budget for Monday, April 14. District documents show that the proposed 2015 budget includes $264.15 million in total revenues and $260.09 million in total expenditures.
In comparison, the 2014 budget includes $236.39 million and $245.88 million in total revenues and expenditures, respectively, though the board is set to vote on Monday to alter the budget to reflect $271.22 million in total expenditures so “school district expenditures will not exceed the ‘published’ budget” in the categories of instruction, total support services, noninstructional programs and total other expenditures.
Despite a wave of good news for the district – increased enrollment, a boost in state aid and being awarded an Iowa Department of Education grant – Graham said reductions will still be necessary for the district because of past declining enrollment and low-funding levels from the state.
Graham mentioned the already announced schedule changes at the middle schools, but said to list any other possible areas targeted for cuts would be “conjecture.” The budgeting process is ongoing and a final line-item budget will likely reach the board in June, Graham said, but April 30 is when administrators hope to have the staffing cuts finalized.“It isn’t just self-correcting when you have one good year,” he said. “It’s a period of years that we work ourselves out of that situation and bring ourselves into solid financial sustainability.”