BOE submits $12.9M budget, with questions
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · April 26, 2013

OK, so the Board of Education passed a nearly $12.9 million budget for next year. So how much will it cost you in property taxes? Well, the school district does not know yet.

And that has school board members upset.

The state required all schools to turn in their budgets on April 15. But the Iowa legislature has not yet figured out “allowable growth” or how much, if any, money they should put into it.

Allowable growth is how much additional money school districts are permitted to spend. And sometimes the state legislature also digs into its own general fund and gives that same amount of money to the schools.

Business Manager Angie Klinkkammer told the school board at its April 8 meeting that the Iowa Department of Education will “automatically change” West Branch’s school budget once lawmakers figure out their portion.

The uncertainty did not set well with school board members.

“This puts it all on auto pilot,” Board President Mike Owen said. “The legislature has failed in its responsibility to pass allowable growth. It’s obscene.”

Superintendent Kevin Hatfield said the school district has tried to keep its property tax rate at about $14 per $1,000 assessed valuation. Yet while the school district benefits from additional income, the more the state puts into allowable growth, the more taxpayers have to pay.

Klinkkammer gave the following figures for the percent of allowable growth and its affect on the property tax rate:

• At 2 percent, the property tax rate would be set at $14.02.

• At 3 percent, it would increase to $14.06.

• At 4 percent, it would be $14.10.

Klinkkammer said the only wiggle room for the school board is that once the Department of Education makes the changes, the numbers can be lowered.

“You can decrease (how much you want to spend) but you cannot increase,” she said.

Of the total budget, about $9.2 million goes into the General Fund, of which the school board has the most discretion on how it is spent.

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