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Iowa public schools operate with a formula whereby the maximum authorized budget is determined simply by enrollment and the amount of supplemental state aid set annually by the Iowa Legislature. The formula serves as a fiscal limit for districts in Iowa to operate within their budgets. This is called a district’s “unspent balance.”

If a district does not spend its maximum authorized budget, the unspent balance (or spending authority) carries forward to the next year and can be accumulated not as cash, but as permission to spend. Known as a measure of financial health, the unspent balance is designed to provide districts with a safety net for unanticipated one-time expenditures.

What has happened to the Sioux City school district’s unspent balance? Ten years ago, it was over $30 million. It is now projected to be around $12 million. Why? Because the district has opted to use the unspent balance on an annual basis to fund recurring expenditures. This is not what it was designed for. What have these expenditures gone for? Administrative bloat, bonuses and unnecessary elective programs (by eliminating core programs such as middle school reading).

Simply put, the erosion of the district’s safety net is placing core programs and the district in peril. The only way to preserve this crucial protection of the district’s resources is by cutting administrative spending. The alternative will be far worse when the crucial and vital protection of the unspent balance is depleted. The superintendent will move on. School board, cut administrative bloat now. - Daniel Greenwell, Sioux City


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