MASON CITY — Superintendent of Schools Anita Micich is recommending the district pass two special levies, hire no new personnel and sell Madison Elementary School next year in order to make up a $3.5 million deficit at the end of the 2013-2014 school year.
Micich presented the list Tuesday, during a special School Board meeting that also included its annual budget hearing.
By the end of the meeting, School Board members decided to hold the first public forum at 6:45 p.m. Monday, April 16, at Lincoln Intermediate School, to discuss a $1.67 per $1,000 valuation voter-approved Physical Plant and Equipment Levy.
A board-approved PPEL of 33 cents is now in place, but “that is not enough to take care of our buildings,” said Micich.
That levy would help increase funds to help maintain buildings, make repairs and meet some technology needs.
Micich also is recommending a 4 percent Instructional Support Levy to bolster a shrinking General Fund.
An ISL is the only levy that can increase spending authority for the district. Mason City is only one of 19 school districts in Iowa that does not have an ISL in place.
Lack of spending authority and the ability to raise its cash reserve was limited by the Legislature this year and, officials say, will leave the district $1.5 million short. An already reduced cash reserve — some $2 million less than last year — will leave the district with $3.5 million less next year than this year.
The district’s property tax levy also is limited. The district approved a levy of $13.32 per $1,000 valuation this year — the lowest in 20 years. Last year, the district levied $15.11 per $1,000 valuation.
Tuesday’s discussion was part of the annual budget hearing. The district approved a $76 million budget for the 2012-2013 school year. Of that amount, $14.5 million is raised by local property tax.
A voter-approved PPEL was allowed to sunset several years ago, when the
1-cent sales tax for schools began raising revenue for capital projects. The Roosevelt complex was built on proceeds from the tax.
But, Micich said, that sales tax revenue for schools will be reduced next year, when the penny tax will be levied statewide instead of countywide. Revenues, now being used to support a $37 million John Adams Middle School/High School renovation and construction project, are expected to be less than the current level.
Board member Mark Young said it does not look like the Legislature will be much help. No increase in aid was approved in the Iowa House. Four percent is being proposed in the state Senate, but to date, no agreement has been reached. If nothing is done by the Legislature, the current rate of aid — zero percent — will stay in place for the next year.
“And I haven’t heard anything but zero,” said Young.
The district went through deep cuts three years ago, when then-Gov. Chet Culver mandated 11.5 percent in cuts over the course of one year.
As a result, board members said, many reductions were made.