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STC Schools budget: 28% property tax hike

Aimed At Eliminating General Fund Red Ink

March 6, 2012
By John Speer - Editor , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Public Hearing Is March 19 - There's a near 28 percent jump in local property tax askings in the South Tama School District's proposed budget for 2012-13. It provides a rate for taxes payable beginning in September for residential, commercial and farm at $17.68 per $1,000 valuation, up from the current $13.79.

The hike is subject to final school board approval when consideration is made following a public hearing set for March 19. The hearing is at 5:30 p.m. at the Administration Building, 1702 Harding, Tama.

The amount raised coupled with two income tax measures is expected to produce a modest $183,000 cash reserve. A 10 percent instructional support levy on STC residents' Iowa income tax was approved by the school board in February. Additionally, an eight percent state income surtax is also in effect.

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STC General Fund Spending

-STC graphic

Without the increases, Joanna Hofer, the school district director of finance and operations projects the general fund will be short $723,500 at the end of this fiscal year on June 30.

"It is something we've tried to avoid for the past few years," said Michelle Yuska, board president. Yuska said the board has been diligent in cutting costs and attempting to avoid tax boosts.

She said the district has cut some $3 million costs over the past three years.

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"Nobody wants to do it," Yuska said. "It's really hard, but the kids shouldn't suffer. I hope people will understand and ask questions."

"There's a near perfect storm,"Hofer said of circumstances which have led the school board to the tax raise. Hofer says the district was "comfortable" for a number of years with a tax levy rate in the 13 percent range.

Superintendent Kerri Nelson and Hofer last week listed reasons why the district balance has fallen from 2009 including revenue lost in the past two years:

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a 10 percent school funding cut ordered by then-Governor Chet Culver in fiscal year 2010 -$776,667.

declining enrollment in general, perhaps fueled somewhat by students leaving the district to attend the recently opened Meskwaki Settlement School, resulting in loss of state per pupil aid - 80 students in 2010 -$472,240; down another 64 students in fall, 2011 -$387,752.

what they characterize as "punishment for being fiscally responsible" the district must repay an unused special education fund balance to the federal government totaling $633,825.

Nelson and Hofer also point out district spending is well below what is legally authorized under Iowa law. Figures provided by the district project an unspent authority balance of about $2.8 million at the end of the fiscal 2012 year.



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