SIOUX CITY | As costs of teaching pupils continue to go up, the Sioux City School Board will struggle to receive and direct enough revenue in the school district budget ahead for the 2018-19 year.

In the first full discussions on the 2018-19 budget, the school board members were told Monday to expect little if any growth from the Iowa Legislature to fund programs. The supplemental state aid growth rate, or the percentage amount of additional money received above the current year, is expected to be either zero percent or 1 percent at most, Sioux City School District Finance Director Patty Blankenship said in the school board meeting.

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Patty Blankenship

Blankenship

Blankenship presented preliminary 2018-19 spending authority projections for the general fund and laid out the calendar toward setting the budget by the state deadline of April 15, which is the same for all Iowa school districts.

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Mike Krysl

Krysl

Sioux City School Board President Mike Krysl said the severe problem is the trend in school funding from the Legislature over eight years since 2010-11, when new money to K-12 state schools went up an average of 1.8 percent per year. Comparatively, over those eight years Sioux City district costs went up on average by 3.2 percent per year.

For months dating back to summer, such board members as Krysl had said they fear no growth could be set by legislators, once they gavel in for the 2018 session in January.

The Iowa Legislature approved a 1.1 percent increase in supplemental state funding for K-12 districts for the current budget year that began July 1.

Monday's talks were the first phase of the FY19 general fund budget process. Blankenship noted the general fund budget directly impacts the level of services the district is able to provide to the roughly 15,000 students.

The spending authority projections were prepared assuming zero percent and 1 percent growth in supplemental state aid, a category that in previous years had been called the allowable-growth percentage rate. The district’s spending authority impacts the development of the general fund budget.

Blankenship, Krysl and Superintendent Paul Gausman said if revenues continue to trend in low-percentage increases, the Sioux City School District will have to tap reserves, which is not a sustainable financial plan. They said dire expense cuts would have to occur to prevent such a drain on reserves.

The school district has gained 19 students more than when compared to the 2016-17 year, so that means more money will come in the per-pupil component of state funding.  Blankenship said under the supplemental state aid 1 percent increase scenario for 2018-19, the district would have $188.6 million in maximum authorized budget, which roughly translates to the total revenue.

The Sioux City School District is being operated this year with a $170 million budget, which reduced spending by about $2 million from the 2016-17 year.

This year, the district's property tax rate is $15.30 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, or down by 9 cents per $1,000 from the $15.48 of last year.

The projection of the property tax rate for 2018-19 will come in the Feb. 26 board meeting, and two other meetings in early 2018 (Jan. 22 and Feb. 12) will highlight other key budget figures.

The budget timeline shared by Blankenship recommends that final changes to the financial plan be made on March 12, then the budget is expected to be adopted after a final public hearing on April 9.

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County and education reporter

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