Mason City schools face deficit

2012-04-10T21:43:00Z Mason City schools face deficitBy DEB NICKLAY deb.nicklay@globegazette.com Mason City Globe Gazette

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.

Copyright 2015 Mason City Globe Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(28) Comments

  1. glenwood
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    glenwood - April 12, 2012 5:53 pm
    and, iteach, you might also respond in kind by making us all aware of what we are getting for those lofty salaries for the two positions I previously noted...should be a LOT...an awful lot - and if not, then you have your answer!!!
  2. glenwood
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    glenwood - April 12, 2012 5:51 pm
    iteach...specifics?...check my previous postings....start with the "director of ed programs" and the "director of finances" - those two totally "support" (NOT direct services positions) drain close to a quarter of a million (Yes, that's correct) in salary and benefit dollars...the former position also has a FULL TIME clerical assistant and the latter has SIX of them...do the math...what do we get for those dollars?
  3. glenwood
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    glenwood - April 12, 2012 5:41 pm
    Brenda...I am NOT anti-music at all....I am just saying that when you get to a point where you have more bills than you have revenue, then ALL programs need to be scrutinized INCLUDING MASON CIT'S APPARENT SACRED COW - MUSIC. Music is wonderful and top notch at Mason City Schools...but if there is a shortage of money SOMETHING has to go or be scaled back...for me, that would be music rahter than technology education, language arts, science or math!!!!!
  4. iteach
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    iteach - April 12, 2012 12:35 pm
    Please, to give at least a little credibility to this thread, everyone be specific. Admin may be top-heavy, but list which admin jobs and duties are not needed and why. It would mean much more if you could specifically list which jobs and duties could be combined in order to cut admin costs. And please be specific about sports and music. Is there some evidence that these extras benifit or do not benifit students? Switch from biased opinions to evidence-based statements of fact.
  5. JG24
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    JG24 - April 12, 2012 8:56 am
    School Boards hold the key to change. Why does MC keep voting the same people on when they obviously have no clue about spending within their means? Old Coach has the right idea but remember each school is different. Administrators are often the 1st one's bashed but many do a great job with their staff and students. MC not so much. Many schools are not down to their bare bones yet esp. MC. Look around at all the wasted $$ and it is hard to feel sorry for them.
  6. JG24
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    JG24 - April 12, 2012 8:49 am
    Administration cuts are not always the way to go. MC is admin. heavy, most other districts aren't. Sports and fine arts should be efficient not cut. Schools need to be efficient, MC is not. Ask around, many districts are doing fine because of their leadership and community dedication. MC is like a retirement comm. where the older people don't want to spend a dime. MC school leadership is lacking. Micich has been ineffective (great at giving out raises though) and needs to look elsewhere.
  7. chester
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    chester - April 12, 2012 8:03 am
    If my memory serves me correct the Trapshooting Team is funded 100% by the team, they were cut off from the school. They are still active. Maybe the school district and sports teams could seek out advice from them as to how to keep sports going without school $$$. If the team is still going, and I do believe it is, it goes to show that schools don't have to fund sports. Maybe the school is not funding any sports directly, a question to ask.
  8. oldcoach
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    oldcoach - April 12, 2012 2:07 am
    . . . intelligances in the classroom. I know we can so this. I know we can live within our means. We get spoiled in our educational system and we become top heavy in administration when what we really need it "front line" employees (those that touch the lives of children daily) who are called to be teachers and love to work with ALL children. Teaching is no picnic but it never was. Teaching is hard work but it is rewarding work.
    I am not trashing teachers -- I just think we can do better
  9. oldcoach
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    oldcoach - April 12, 2012 2:04 am
    Citizen1 said: "Well Old Coach...what do you think? Cut sports? Give those coaches more classes to teach? "

    I don't have the answer. I do, however, know that for too long schools have tried to do everything for everyone. Do we need multiple foreign languages taught? Do we need specialist teaching our elementary specials or could the regular education teacher teach their own PE, art, etc. We used to do that and we called it interdisciplinary or teaching to the multiple

  10. mcparent
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    mcparent - April 11, 2012 11:35 pm
    Why is it that one of the first things people want to cut is sports? Out of a $76 million budget only $450,000 goes to sports 7-12. That pays for transportation, coaches, and refs/umpires. Boosters fund raise for uniforms, equipment, and part of the transportation. There are currently 43 MCHS graduates playing college sports. Children learn skills from playing sports: work ethics, leadership, working as part of a team, keeping grades up so they can play. Look at cutting upper management.
  11. Ezekiel
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    Ezekiel - April 11, 2012 5:14 pm
    You get what you (don't) pay for. An underfunded school system is yet one more reason for young families with a choice to avoid Mason City.
  12. Citizen1
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    Citizen1 - April 11, 2012 4:48 pm
    Well Old Coach...what do you think? Cut sports? Give those coaches more classes to teach? Really all of you...how many have you attend the school board meetings? How many of you are teachers and have stood in front of a class (besides old coach)? If you don't understand how school budgets work, study up and find out. And do that before you comment on news stories.
  13. a reader
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    a reader - April 11, 2012 4:24 pm
    I also am confused, I thought they got grant funding for the renovations at the high school and JAMS. What the heck is going on here? How about Anita takes a cut in pay, I hardly think she's worth what the district is paying her. Since she's been in Mason City, the financial difficulties in the schools has only gotten worse. I think her track record is not very good and a replacement for her should be considered.
  14. JB Johnson of Britt
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    JB Johnson of Britt - April 11, 2012 12:58 pm
    get one of the wizards at Forest City to come down and redo your budget. They seem to found the money to redo footbal field.
  15. DBLR
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    DBLR - April 11, 2012 12:32 pm
    If I we have a shortage of money for my budget we are forced reduce spending, yet our government, schools for some reason think they don't have to reduce spending at all, instead they ask for more of our money that means we have to cut our budgets again so that they can have more money to spend. BTW even when they ask for and get more of our money its never enough they want more, just how much money will be enough? BTW it gets old having to find ways to cut the budget just so they can have more!
  16. Brenda
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    Brenda - April 11, 2012 10:53 am
    Have you ever kept 150-200 teenagers focused and disciplined for an hour on the same thing, every day? Not as easy as it looks. I realize some will say, yeah but they're the "good" kids. That may be true but the key word is "kids". They're just as prone to start chaos as any other kid, especially in a big group like the band and choir. All it takes is one who's having a tough day and wants to feel like they need control to start a mutiny. Walk in those shoes once or twice. See how you do.
  17. Brenda
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    Brenda - April 11, 2012 10:46 am
    Why do you always go after the music positions, why not cut sports? Do you really think sports make money for the district? If you do....you're wrong, plain and simple....wrong. Also, we have many more MC students go into music careers for college than go on to play college or professional sports. The life lessons of teamwork, family building, work ethic building are the same and the cost to parents is the same. I had kids in both music and sports the cost difference is nil.
  18. Brenda
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    Brenda - April 11, 2012 10:40 am
    Necessary to have. The music teachers work with hundreds of students. Beyond the full group rehearsal time, they have lessons with small groups, which, if omitted would lower the quality of the program. They also meet to rehearse other larger groups, such as Jazz band and Madrigal choir outside of their contracted hours, usually at 7 or 7:30 am to provide enhanced opportunities for our students. I realize there are others who will whine about working off the clock, but these educators do not.
  19. glenwood
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    glenwood - April 11, 2012 9:43 am
    Finally, how about cutting some music positions???...Yeah, I know we are home of the Music Man and our bands and choirs are truly terrific....but really - can we afford two FULL TIME teachers at the high school for BOTH band and choir when they only "teach (rehearse) 2-3 hours a day with their bands and choirs?!?!...Necessary to have? Or "nice" to have? Which can we afford in these tough times???
  20. glenwood
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    glenwood - April 11, 2012 9:40 am
    Another place to cut? HOw about Ms. Sladweller in the central office...here's ANOTHER $100,000+ salary that buys who knows what for the district....lots of money going out for someone who basically does little except to "coordinate, supervise, and consult"....whatever that is!!! Why is it always teachers who are cut (ones who provide DIRECT services to kids) and not the EXPENSIVE FRINGE PEOPLE????
  21. glenwood
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    glenwood - April 11, 2012 9:37 am
    Have any of you been in the central office area? If you had you would note that the "business office" for the district is enclosed behind glass and is totally inaccessable to any district person. If you could get in there you'd find SIX clerical workers and Ms. Jefferies in thier own "kingdom." Ms. Jefferies is paid WELL OVER $100,000 PER YEAR and she is little more than a glorified bookkeeper who does not even have a college degree (unless you count AIB)...how about this a place to cut?!?!?!
  22. Iowa
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    Iowa - April 11, 2012 9:35 am
    First you notice she said sales tax revenue will be reduced, but she never said by how much. Then she wants to raise millions by tax to cover what might be a few thousand or even hundreds of dollars. Fewer students but more money. Must be nice to increase your budget when you spend too much.
  23. chester
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    chester - April 11, 2012 8:51 am
    With declining enrollment, fewer students- it makes sense to sell buildings and not need as many teachers, correct? I also know for a fact that PTO's in the district are raising thousands of dollars to support our kids! Is it the energy costs that are killing the district...mcdad101- You offer great discussion points.
  24. goldenthroat
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    goldenthroat - April 11, 2012 8:41 am
    So I assume there will be NO Wage increases?
  25. mrfoad
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    mrfoad - April 11, 2012 7:34 am
    When I have a shortfall in my budget, I REDUCE SPENDING. I'm sure that thought never passed through their minds at all. To "oldcoach": Tell me it ain't so Joe! Live within our means? It sound unamerican, certainly ungovermental!
  26. mcdad101
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    mcdad101 - April 11, 2012 7:28 am
    So, if selling Madison school and the other recommendations made take care of the deficiet for 2013-2014, what happens for the school year 2014-2015 and beyond? Seems there has to be wholesale changes of how things are done in the MC school district and just raising money is a "band-aid" fix to a much larger problem.
  27. chester
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    chester - April 10, 2012 10:55 pm
    I am confused. I thought the Jams/mchs renovations were paid for with the recovery act. I guess I do not understand how school funding works.
  28. oldcoach
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    oldcoach - April 10, 2012 10:01 pm
    A deficit? Oh my goodness. Raising the PPEL is not the answer. The 1 cent sales tax will be reduced locally next year because it goes to the statewide formula. Cerro Gordo county and major retail markets around the state have been living off the smaller rural county dollars being spent in their county for way too long. Now we need to live within our means like our smaller neighbors have had to do for way too long.
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