Editor's Note: On the eve of Iowa School Board Recognition Week (May 6-12) News-Herald Correspondent Joyce Wiese wrote to present information on issues concerning the South Tama School Board and school administration. She has been responsible for school board meeting coverage for 20 years.
Since I attend all South Tama County Community Board of Education meetings, I feel it important to clarify a lot of the rumors going around about the Special Education Fund at the South Tama County School. Most of the rumors come from those who do not attend meetings. Since most of the accusations have to do with the special education fund, I would like to state the following FACTS:
Special education funds are based on a specified funding formula. The allocation of funds received must be spent within specified policies. Special Education funds can only be spent to provide services and programs for special education students.
A limited amount of special education carry over funds is allowed during any fiscal year.
If a district has additional special education funds remaining that have not been spent during the fiscal year, the funds must be returned to the State using a reversion formula. This is an automatic process through the special education formula.
If a district has a deficit in special education funds due to the increased cost of meeting the needs of special education students a Board of Education may increase the levy to recover cost of providing the service.
During the 2008-2009 (Fiscal year 2009) and during 2009-2010 (Fiscal Year 2010), the district did not spend all of the special education funds, thus the funds were automatically returned to the State.
There were 71 Iowa School districts in Fiscal Year 2009 and 78 Iowa school districts in fiscal year 2010 that returned special education funds to the State using the reversion formula.
During Fiscal Year 2011 the district was able to spend more of the allocation and was not required to return funds to the State. It is anticipated there will not be carry over.
Technically, special education funds are considered part of general funds for accounting purposes. All use of the funds must be directly attributed to the needs of special education purposes. South Tama uses uniform financial accounting codes as required by all State and Federal reports. All funds are accounted for and have been formally audited by Nolte, Corman and Johnson, PC..
The result of spending or returning the special education funds would have the identical impact on general funds. Mrs. Joanne Hofer, Director of Finance and Operations, listed the return of special education funds to demonstrate the overall impact on general funds over time.
There are several factors that have contributed to reduced balance in general funds in recent years. Some of the factors include declining enrollment, the elimination of Phase I dollars mid year, the ten percent across the board cut made by then Governor Culver, the State Aid funding for Fiscal Year 2011 was funded at 95% and 0% allowable growth for Fiscal Year 2012.
I hope this article clears up some of the problems people have had since the budget hearing held a couple of weeks ago.
I would also like to say personally, it is time we all in the South Tama County Community School District, thank our Board of Education members and Administration for all the work they have put in to having quality school and giving all Students a quality education.
South Tama County Board members are some of the most dedicated persons in the County and should be shown consideration when they spend so much of their personal time to help promote our school and the education al all young people, our world of tomorrow.
It would really be rewarding to see some of the Tama County Taxpayers take an hour a month out of their daily lives and attend a board meeting to keep up with all the duties these folks take a part of. There is always a time for public comments when you can ask questions or make comments.
Attending a school board meeting does not really take too much of a person's time. I have been attending board meetings twice a month, sometimes more often, for 20 years and I can not see where it has damaged my personal life to any extent.