Search This Site
News :: VS superintendent says House school funding bill will cause property tax hike
· 9:09am February 22nd, 2013
The tensions between state legislators and local government officials often centers on funding, since state budgets and rules affect county, cities and schools in many ways.
This is the time of year when that tension plays out between school officials throughout the state, and the members of the state legislature who are pondering how much money the state can and/or should spend on school funding.
One problem is the state-mandated deadline for school budgets. Often the April15 deadline for schools to submit their budgets has passed before the two parties and the two chambers in the Iowa Legislature have agreed on the state’s education spending. This leaves districts with budgets based on their best guesses for funding from the state for the coming year.
"When Governor Branstad was governor the first time, the legislature passed and he signed a bill that said the legislature needed to approve allowable growth within the first 30 days after the governor presents his budget. At the time, the rationale he provided was that it would provide schools information in a timely manner," said Hainstock.
However, says the Superintendent:
"In at least three of the last four years they have missed the deadline; at this point, they are more than a year delinquent for FY14; we have to certify our budget for FY14 before April 15 which means we are trying to determine this month our staffing plan for next year and how to fund it."
The second issue this year is that the school funding legislation passed this week in the Iowa House includes significant funding changes, as well as new rules and requirements for school districts.
The other main area of contention between the state and school districts is the amount of funding the state provides for school districts.
Comments from legislatures and Superintendent Mary Jo Hainstock this week indicate that there is some difference between what schools are hoping for from the Iowa Legislature, and what the Legislature intends to do.
A press release from the Iowa GOP, quoting State Representative Dawn Pettingill, claims that: “Supplemental State Aid (formerly known as Allowable Growth) would provide an additional $69 million in Fiscal Year 2014 and $43 million in Fiscal Year 2015. With that, the bill promises the state will pick up the resulting property tax increase of around $8 million in each of the next two years, protecting property tax payers.”
That, says Pettengill, represents a “record investment” of $157 million in Iowa schools and teachers.
But, says Hainstock, most school districts in are operating on fewer dollars because of recent changes.
“My biggest concern about the press release is it gives the impression the state is financially supporting the educational needs of our students,” said the Superintendent. “While the Education Reform measures would have financial support, the legislature has not been funding education very well over the last few years. And with our decline in enrollment, we are operating on less dollars even though operating costs have all increased (insurance, fuel and other energy, salaries, etc.)”
Hainstock says that the 2 percent increase in state funding per student from last year's amount that the Iowa House approved for allowable growth – rather than the 4 percent school districts had asked for – means V-S district property tax payers will pay 30¢ more per thousand than if the legislature approved 4%.
“And in our initial calculations, the requirements of the Education Reform legislation would cost about $50,000 more to implement than we would be receiving from the additional state funds,” she said. “As we are working on next year’s budget, 2% allowable growth actually costs our taxpayers more than 4% allowable growth because of the decline in enrollment we have experienced. I realize the Governor and Republicans are considering how to reduce this impact to property tax payers but it doesn’t diminish the fact that we need additional resources to continue to keep our lights on, fuel in the busses, and other day-to-day expenses.”
“Over the last few years, as we’ve had some tough economic times, school boards across the state have had to accept the 0% or 2% allowable growth rates,” Hainstock concludes. “However, now that the economy has turned around and the state has more funds – and is also anticipating continued strong tax revenue receipts, we would ask that the legislature demonstrate their support for the students in our state by financially supporting them.”
Debating reform measures
Hainstock said some of the reforms required by the new school bill passed this week have already begun to take shape in some school districts, including Vinton-Shellsburg.
“I appreciate the leadership concerning school reform that is being demonstrated by our elected officials. We are currently doing some of the things already at Vinton-Shellsburg that are outlined in the legislation including providing mentors for new teachers and instructional coaches to support all teachers. We currently have collaboration time and peer work built into our teachers’ professional development opportunities,” she says.
While the bill is a start, says Hainstock, there are additional changes that need to occur including how we meet each student’s learning needs.
“The bill addresses student assessment but does not give more flexibility in how we deliver instruction. For example, we are required to for high school courses to be a certain number of hours before a student can earn credit; at some point we need to move away from ‘time’ as the requirement to ‘learning’ as the requirement,” she says.
One thing Hainstock said she appreciates in the bill the House approved is how it allows school districts to operate under “home rule” the same as cities and counties.
“This will allow us more flexibility in how we do things as a district,” she said.
Below is the complete press release from the Iowa GOP about the school funding/reform bill passed this week:
(DES MOINES) – Rep. Dawn Pettengill (R-Mt. Auburn) supported House File 215, a bill that brings bold, accountable and innovative reforms to Iowa’s education system.
In 1992, Iowa’s students ranked first in the country and by 2012 they had slipped to middle of the pack. Rep. Pettengill recognizes that now is the time for real change to help Iowa students compete in a global economy.
--Is a record investment in Iowa schools and teachers – at full implementation it would be an investment of $157 million.
-- Supplemental State Aid (formerly known as Allowable Growth) would provide an additional $69 million in Fiscal Year 2014 and $43 million in Fiscal Year 2015. With that, the bill promises the state will pick up the resulting property tax increase of around $8 million in each of the next two years, protecting property tax payers.
--Creates career pathways for teachers, including a structure for initial, career, model, mentor, and lead teachers. The plan will provide incentives for teachers in high-needs schools and creates a system where the best teachers are being used throughout the building, providing continual professional development, raising the performance of other teachers, and spreading excellent practice throughout each and every school building.
--Allows communities to see quantitatively how their local schools are performing. Student assessments will test students beyond a bubble sheet for today’s learning standards, giving teachers and administrators the feedback and tools they need.
--Rewards teachers that excel and helps teachers that need to improve, again bringing more accountability to taxpayers and ensuring more accountability from the teachers.
--Allows flexibility which allows local districts to implement innovative systems that best fit their own district.
--The proposal implements home rule authority to empower locally-elected school boards. This again empowers local districts and gives parents more input in the process.
“We are investing in a strategy that brings the best practices of high-performing school districts to all of our schools,” said Pettengill.
Supporters of the bill include job creators such as: 3M, DuPont, John Deere, Wellmark, the National Federation of Independent Business, the Association of Business and Industry, Hy-Vee, and the Iowa Chamber Alliance.
The bill passed the House 52 to 44 and now heads to the Senate for their consideration.
2 hour late start for VS schools
Weather update: Shellsburg PTO Bingo cancelled