School property tax may top $4M
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · April 05, 2013

The value of all the taxable property in West Branch school district’s borders rose by nearly $11.8 million in the past year, which could push the school’s total property tax revenues over $4 million by the end of the fiscal year.

It would be the first time in school history that the school district’s tax rate, which fluctuates between $13 and $14 per $1,000 assessed valuation, has brought in a tax levy that topped $4 million in revenues, according to a report by School Superintendent Kevin Hatfield.

Tax valuation for 2011-12 totaled $277.9 million, which rose to $289.7 million in 2012-13. The school district’s borders reach toward Solon, Tipton, Rochester, West Liberty and Iowa City.

Hatfield provided a Finance and Staffing Overview at the March school board meeting while the district works on its Fiscal Year 2014 budget and negotiates a new contract with the teaching staff.

The report also shows that all salaries and benefits — not just teachers — has slowly become a smaller, albeit still the largest, portion of the budget, dropping from 80.06 percent in 1994-95 to 77.27 percent in 2011-12.

Hatfield also floated the idea of making some staffing changes:

• Adding a full-time Science, Technology, Engineering and Math teacher

• Increasing the Information Technology director’s salary from $48,110 to $55,000

• Increasing the Dean of Students/Activities Director salary from $54,800 to $60,000

“That’s almost a 20-percent pay increase,” school board member Deb Schreiber noted.

Hatfield also noted that the state is currently working on its own budget, including how much extra money schools should be permitted to spend — allowable growth — and whether the state will give them that extra money.

Right now, if the state should increase — and fund — 2 percent allowable growth, that could mean another $157,000 in new money for West Branch. At 4 percent, it could be worth $254,000.

Certified enrollment is key to state funding, as a larger enrollment means more money for the district. West Branch counts 814.6 pupils in its certified enrollment this year.

There are 759.4 pupils who live inside the school district’s borders. However, Hatfield’s report adds that 53.2 children inside the district left to enroll somewhere else and 48 came from outside to enroll in West Branch.

In the past five years, enrollment has increased from 785 to 815 pupils, an additional 29 pupils, or a 3.7 percent increase.

Hatfield also reported that the West Branch school district has a solvency ratio — the percentage of its budget that would remain at the end of the fiscal year, June 30 — of 14.4 percent.

The superintendent said that there is a recommendation that solvency ratios run between 5 and 10 percent. West Branch had been at 5.82 percent in 2001 and worked its way up to a high of 17.09 percent in 2008, when the recession hit. It dropped to 8.67 in 2010 and has been working its way upward over the past two years.

The report shows West Branch Community Schools’ tax rate, $13.96 per $1,000 assessed valuation, is about halfway between other schools in the surrounding area and conference.

Mid-Prairie has the lowest tax rate, with $12.22. Wilton, Durant and Lone Tree are all under $13 as well. Tipton has a rate of $13.44. North Cedar is at $14.98. West Liberty, Highland, Lisbon and Solon are at $16 and up.

Of the taxes it collects, the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy and School Secure and Advance Vision for Education levy brought in more than $1 million for the first time in the 2010-11 school year.

Those levies have brought in $771,000 in the first six months of this fiscal year and, if they keep up that rate, should top $1.5 million by the end of June.

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