The 2017-18 school fiscal year just began July 1, but Sioux City School Board members are fearing that a tough funding year could be ahead for the following school year.

"Brace for zero percent (growth)," Board President Mike Krysl said at the last board meeting in June.

The school board members will set some topics to push with 2018 lawmakers at the next board meeting on July 24.

They discussed possibilities in June, when Krysl said that asking for sufficient funding from the Legislature for 2018-19 should be included. He said school board members could advocate for an extension of the ability to use a one-cent local option sales tax for school buildings and to get adequate funding to pay for needed teachers and programs.

But Krysl said the indicators are not good. He noted Iowa state revenues have dropped below estimates in recent months, so the Legislature this year approved a 1.1 percent increase in supplemental state funding for K-12 districts for the budget year that begins July 1. Education groups sought a higher percent during the legislative discussions.

Krysl and board member Perla Alarcon-Flory said they've heard teachers are worried the Iowa Public Employee Retirement System pension benefits could be cut.

Alarcon-Flory said no cuts to IPERS benefits should occur, particularly when the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2017 changed the collective bargaining law for public employees. Many teachers saw that move as a way to reduce benefits, as the law eliminated such issues as health insurance and supplemental pay as mandatory items for bargaining.

School board member Paul Gorski said the financing strands of public education are too convoluted in Iowa. He said the Legislature should revamp "the entire funding system."

"We've been putting band-aids on it for years, and the band-aids are breaking," Gorski said.

In the current year, the Sioux City School District is operating with a $170 million budget, which covers nearly 15,000 students and 1,900 teachers and other staff.

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County and education reporter

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