MP school board sets date for budget reduction talks
By Karyn Spory, Mt. Pleasant News
The Mt. Pleasant School Board members are ready to take a hard look at the budget and a necessary $700,000 in reductions.
Superintendent John Henriksen gave the board a little background as to why the district was needing to cut over half a million dollars.
Unspent balance is a key indicator to the financial health of a school district, Henriksen told those attending the school board meeting Monday night.
“Basically, if your revenues exceed your expenditures, year after year, you build unspent budget authority – spending authority – or as we look at it as that credit card authority,” explained Henriksen. “If your expenditures outpace your revenues year after year, you begin to eat into that spending authority.”
And that is exactly what has been happening in the district for the past four years.
In 2012, the district hit its peak of unspent budget authority at roughly $6.8 million. Since then, that authority has steadily decreased to $4,827,452.
“The trend that we’re on in our unspent balance (is) again reflective of expenditures out pacing revenues year after year,” he said. “In a four-year period we’ve reduced our unspent budget authority by $2 million.”
Henriksen said there were a few reasons the district was seeing the reductions, decreases in enrollment and allowable growth (supplemental state aid). “When you don’t make adjustments to your expenditures, then you get into that trend, which is what we’re trying to address,” he said.
The finance committee, Henriksen said, has been working on the budget reductions and will present their recommendations to the board during a work session scheduled for Monday, Feb. 27, at 6 p.m.
Feb. 27, however, would be the date for the boy’s substate basketball game, if Mt. Pleasant should make it. The alternative date for the work session would be Wednesday, March 8.
The committee’s reduction recommendations were made though a process to prioritize the district’s needs. Although there were a host of priorities, the committee narrowed it down to nine priorities. From there, the committee weighted the priorities on a scale of one through 10. The priorities deemed a 10 were decreasing overall spending, least/no negative impact on student learning and maintaining a positive climate. The committee must also comply with all Iowa codes.
Henriksen said he and the committee members would like to maintain educational programming and extend opportunities for students, as the board heard a presentation from senior Jack Pieper about creating agriculture-based curriculum in the district, but reductions must be made somewhere.
One preemptive item the board had offered to help with budget reductions was early retirement. Faculty and staff have until Wednesday, Feb. 15, to submit their application for early retirement. As of Monday evening, six individuals (three faculty and three staff members) had taken advantage of the early retirement offer.
Salem’s third- and second-grade teachers, Tom Weatherman and Barbara Kennedy, respectively, and Lincoln’s kindergarten teacher Angie Jandrey had their early retirement approved. Doris Aplara, food service; Chris Jayne, Lincoln para; and Diane Thompson, Lincoln special para, also had their early retirement approved by the board.
In other budget related items, Henriksen said the district was going to receive a budget guarantee of 1.1 percent.
“The budget guarantee says that every district is guaranteed at least one percent of the previous year’s program costs.” With 1,970.2 students, as of October’s certified enrollment, and a per-pupil state aid of $6,664, the district’s regular operating costs for fiscal year 2018 will be $13,129,413.
And with the one percent budget guarantee, the district would see $13,262,561.
“Again, all of that is local property tax. When we do the budget, you can make the decision to levy for those dollars,” he said.
Lastly, the board will hold an Iowa School Board Association advocacy workshop regarding the state penny tax for school infrastructure on Thursday, Feb. 16, at the high school media center.
More information from Monday night’s meeting will appear in tomorrow’s edition of The News.