Farmer, accountant urges 'no' vote on school bond
To the editor:
The Mt. Pleasant Community School District has asked voters to approve a $16,900,000 bond issue to finance improvements to our school buildings. If voters approve the current proposal, as approved by our school board, the financial strength of our district may be jeopardized. Sales tax revenues could be earmarked for some of the improvements. Currently, the sales tax generates over $600,000 of unencumbered revenues. The district uses about $1,000,000 for the middle school improvements, bus and computer leases. The current public measure requires a vote to approve a property tax levy of approximately $2.70 per $1000 of taxable property valuation. This rate may be minimally less due to interest rate savings and related bond expenditures.
The MPCSD Board of Directors and administration need to uphold the beliefs held by previous board members and administrations regarding money management skills and budget practices. Through sound decision making and being fiscally responsible the school district has benefitted from various forms of tax revenue funding.
Our school district’s actions will cause a higher tax burden on farmers, businesses, and homeowners. Crop prices have dropped significantly. Businesses are still struggling to survive and grow. Homeowners cannot afford to have their tax assessments raised each year by the various taxing authorities.
Our school district funds will be restricted for many years. Each school district is required to have “rainy day funds”, but what if a building(s) suffers some kind of catastrophic damage?
According to the Iowa Department of Education, the MPCSD’s certified enrollment has decreased over 230 students since 2007. The decrease results in the district losing revenue and forces a school to either reduce expenditures or generate additional funding by raising property taxes.
I have reviewed the following financial reports that have been presented by the MPCSD Board:
• August 11, 2014 board meeting: The District’s unassigned fund balance in the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) is $191,194.
• Fund balance from SAVE (penny sales tax) is $1,299,417. The district estimates $1,700,000 in SAVE revenues for FY15. According to the certified financial report, approximately $1,035,07 was encumbered, leaving approximately $664,074 undesignated.
• According to FY15 Adoption of Budget and Taxes, the district is estimating $296,944 in PPEL revenues.
• Based on this information, the total amount of funds available for 2014-15 school infrastructure needs is estimated to be $2,451,629.
• Beginning July 1, 2015, with no change in the current PPEL levy and SAVE receipts the district could have an additional $961,018 to fund infrastructure.
The district could use a mix of the existing levies to fund a portion of these school renovations. If the district is choosing not to use the existing infrastructure reserves because the high school needs a new roof in 10 years, then the board could set up an account to safeguard these funds for this purpose.
I encourage everyone to vote “no.” This will not reflect a lack of support for our school district. It instead reflects the public’s insistence on a proposal which addresses district needs rather than wants and wishes.
Accountant and Farmer