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Transportation Fees Set for 2017-18, Services to be Reviewed

Next year, WDMCS families will see a slight increase in transportation fees, which have not changed for five years.

wdmcs busThe WDMCS Board of Education unanimously approved a $20 increase over last year in the annual two-way bus pass. There will be a $10 increase in the annual one-way bus pass, a $5 increase in the quarterly two-way pass, and a $2 increase in the one-way quarterly pass.

At the School Board’s April 24 meeting, WDMCS Chief Financial Officer Paul Bobek explained even with the proposed increase, the district is not charging the full cost of transporting a student. The district will continue to only charge approximately three-fourths of the average transportation cost per student.

2017-18 Transportation Fees

Regular Fee Reduced-Rate Fee
Quarterly One-Way Bus Pass $64 $45
Quarterly Two-Way Bus Pass $123 $86
Annual One-Way Bus Pass (Four Quarters) $255 $178
Annual Two-Way Bus Pass (Four Quarters) $490 343

 

School Board Seeks Study of Transportation Services

The WDMCS Board of Education asked the district’s administration to analyze the cost to provide free transportation for K-12 students living one mile or more from school. The district currently follows the Iowa Department of Education recommendation to provide free transportation for elementary students living two miles or more from school and for high school students living three miles or more from school.

Based on several assumptions, WDMCS Chief Financial Officer Paul Bobek reported this change would require an estimated:

  • 18 new school buses,
  • 18 additional bus drivers,
  • one additional mechanic, and
  • one additional substitute bus driver.

It would cost the district an additional $1.9 million in capital costs and $789,211 in estimated net annual costs.

School Board member Liz Cox said she questioned some of the assumptions, but suggested the district take the time to have a fuller conversation about how to help students get to school to support their opportunity to learn. School Board member David J. Brown suggested the district review its transportation services over the next six to nine months and bring a proposal back to the School Board next spring for a workshop session.

 

 

Topics: Budget

School Fees to be Collected Starting August 1

WDMCS families will not have to pay school fees until after August 1, starting with the 2017-18 school year.

The district and its schools will collect school-related fees, transportation fees, and breakfast/lunch account payments for the upcoming school year from August 1 to October 1. Pre-payments for the upcoming year are not allowed as they cannot be assigned to a student account until after July.

The change will allow families time to complete and submit free and reduced-priced fee applications before billing occurs. The state does not provide its annual income guidelines for free and reduced-priced fee applications until July.

Families will be able to check their fee balance at any time after August 1 using their online account or by contacting the WDMCS Business Services Department at 515-633-5077.

Families may make payments online, in person, or by mail after August 1 for the new school year. Starting with the 2017-18 school year, families choosing to pay online will not be charged a convenience fee for their transactions.

Fees must be paid by October 1. The district will send an unpaid fee notice to families that have not paid fees by this time. If an account remains unpaid after November 15, the unpaid account will be turned over to a collection agency and notification of this action will be sent to the family. All notices will be sent by email to those families with an email address in Infinite Campus or mail to those that do not. For questions, please contact the West Des Moines Community Schools Business Services Department at 515-633-5077.

For questions, please contact the West Des Moines Community Schools Business Services Department at 515-633-5077.

Topics: Budget

District to Eliminate Online Convenience Charge, Adjust Some Student Fees

Next year, families paying school-related fees online will no longer pay a convenience charge. All student fees will remain the same as last year, except textbook and nutrition services fees. Transportation fees are still under review.

Last year, the West Des Moines Community Schools (WDMCS) offered a new online payment system as a way to pay school fees, transportation fees, and add money to a student’s nutrition account.

The district charged a two percent convenience fee, subject to a $1 minimum and $5 maximum, to help offset the nearly $80,000 in processing charges from the online payment company. The district will no longer charge the convenience fee.

Fees such as student activity passes, instrument rental, driver education, parking fines, and more will remain the same as last year.

Textbook fees will increase next year by $5 for the regular rate and by $4 for the reduced rate. This is the first textbook fee increase in three years.

The 2017-18 textbook fees will be:

  • Full-Day Kindergarten: Regular Fee $55; Reduced Fee $39
  • Grades 7-8: Regular Fee $65; Reduced Fee $46
  • Grade 9: Regular Fee $85; Reduced Fee $60
  • Grades 10-12: Regular Fee $85; Reduced Fee $60

“When we compare our fees to other metro-area school districts, we do not have the highest fees and we do not have the lowest fees,” WDMCS CFO Paul Bobek said.

School meal prices will increase 5 cents for a full-priced student lunch and 10 cents for a full-priced breakfast. The increase in meal prices is due to the rising food and personnel costs. For the 2017-18 school year, full-priced lunches will be $2.80 for elementary students and $2.90 for junior high and high school students. Full-priced breakfasts will cost $1.80 for elementary students and $1.90 for junior high and high school students. There is no increase for reduced-rate student meals.

The district proposed a $20 increase in the annual two-way bus pass. Transportation fees have not changed for five years. Bobek explained that even with the proposed increase, the district would not charge the full cost of transporting a student. As in the past, the district would only charge approximately three-fourths of the average transportation cost per student.

The School Board took no action on the transportation fee proposal, due, in part, to a request from the Superintendent’s Finance & Facilities Committee for additional information about the pay zone areas for busing.

The Transportation Department is analyzing how much it would cost to provide free transportation for K-12 students living one mile or more from school. The district currently follows the Iowa Department of Education recommendation to provide free transportation for elementary students living two miles or more from school and for high school students living three miles or more from school.

The transportation fee proposal will come back to the School Board at a later date with the additional information about the adjusted pay zone.

Topics: Budget, School Board News

Board Approves No Increase in Tax Rate

On Monday, April 3, the West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education adopted the district’s $198 million 2017-18 certified budget and set a steady tax rate at  $13.27.

This is the same rate as last year, with no increase. The district continues to have the lowest tax rate in the metro area with the nearest rate 34 percent higher than the WDMCS.

For more information about the district’s budget, visit www.wdmcs.org/category/budget-2/.

Topics: Budget

WDMCS Earns Excellence in Financial Reporting Award

The district has received its 32nd consecutive Association of School Business Officials International’s (ASBO) Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting Award for having met or exceeded the program’s high standards for financial reporting and accountability. The Certificate of Excellence was awarded for the 2015-16 fiscal year. The award confirms the district’s commitment to financial accountability, transparency, and integrity.

Topics: Budget, Staff Achievements

School Board Sets Public Hearing on Budget

Budget_2The West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education will hold a public hearing on the district’s fiscal year 2018 budget at 7 p.m. on April 3, 2017, at the Learning Resource Center, 3550 Mills Civic Parkway, in West Des Moines. A public hearing is held each year on the budget in accordance with Iowa code.

Topics: Budget, School Board News

District’s Operating Budget Outlook Solid for 2017-18

West Des Moines Community Schools CFO Paul Bobek reported to the School Board in December that the district ended its 2016 fiscal year with increases in its general fund and unspent spending-authority balance.

Given these two conditions, the administration will not recommend a formal budget reduction process for the 2018 fiscal year.

In March, the district administration will conduct its regular staffing process for the 2017-18 school year. This annual administrative process may result in either adding or reducing staff based on student enrollment in programs, courses, or grade levels. The Administrative Services department will also continue meeting with administrators with budgetary responsibilities to review individual budgets.

The fund balance and unspent balance are two key indicators of budget health. The general fund balance increased by $4.7 million and the unspent balance increased by $2.9 million. The unspent balance relates to a district’s legal authority to spend money measured in dollars. The unspent balance is the leftover spending authority at the end of the fiscal year.

Bobek said the increases were the result of the district spending fewer state categorical fund dollars. Categorical funding comes from the state and is targeted for particular categories of students, special programs, or special purposes and has restrictions on its use. Another factor was the reallocation of property tax levy money from the district’s management fund to its general fund.

School Board Workshop Agenda (12-12-2016): Audit and Budget Report

Topics: Budget

Board Sets Tax Rate at $13.27

On Monday, April 11, the West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education adopted the district’s $198 million 2016-17 certified budget and set the tax rate at  $13.27.

This is slightly higher than the current $13.24 rate, but district officials estimate that the rate will remain at its current level once finalized.

During the Board’s regular business meeting, Chief Financial Officer Paul Bobek explained that one of the goals in developing the 2016-17 certified budget was to maintain a constant property tax rate.

When the Board adopted and certified the 2015-16 budget, it did so at a total property tax rate of $13.27. Subsequently, the Department of Management made adjustments that resulted in a final total 2015-16 property tax rate of $13.24189. It is possible the Department of Management may still make adjustments to the 2016-17 budget after the Board adopts and certifies, lowering the tax rate.

More information about the district’s 2016-17 budget is available here.

For previous budget-related posts, please click here.

Topics: Budget, School Board News

Public Hearing to Be Held on Tiger Field Project

The West Des Moines Community Schools Board of Education will hold a public hearing on the Tiger Field renovation project on May 9.

The Tiger Field is located at Valley High School and serves as a physical education and competition space for high school students during the day. Seasonal sports and local groups use the field in the evening and on weekends.

The field renovation project includes:

  • Removal and replacement of the existing track, practice field, bleachers, and press box;
  • Installation of a new synthetic turf multipurpose field;
  • New sports field lighting;
  • New bleachers and press box;
  • New long jump runways;
  • And the addition of two new shot put rings.

The district hired Shive-Hattery Inc. to design the project. Renovation work is currently scheduled to take place May-October 2016. The preliminary construction base bid budget for the project was approximately $2.7 million, with the cost opinion base bid coming in at $3,261,309. There are six add alternates totaling $543,279 that could be added to the base bid if selected.

The sales tax fund, which cannot pay for general fund expenses like teacher and staff salaries or educational programming, pays for all construction projects, including the Tiger Field renovation.

The public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 9 at Crestview School of Inquiry, 8355 Franklin Ave, Clive. Any persons interested may appear and file objections to the proposed plans, specifications, form of contract, or cost of such improvement. Proposed drawings, specifications, and form of contract may be examined at www.actionrepro.com.

Topics: Budget, School Board News

Recent Cuts Help District Manage Expenses, Keep Tax Rate Steady

​​​The West Des Moines Community Schools’ decision in December to trim its 2016-17 budget by $560,000 may have helped keep its tax rate relatively steady and manage what many Iowa education leaders are calling inadequate state funding.

During a School Board workshop last week, Chief Financial Officer Paul Bobek presented a proposed publish tax rate of $13.37 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for 2016-17. This is slightly higher than the current $13.24 rate, but he estimates that the rate will remain at its current level once finalized. If approved by the School Board, the rate will continue to be the lowest in the metro area. Other area districts are 32 to 53 percent higher. The WDMCS has been able to maintain its low tax rate for the past few years because of the community’s strong property values.

The district’s proposed certified budget for 2016-17 includes an additional $589,558 under the 2.25 percent funding increase recently approved by lawmakers. Bobek said the increase is for regular programming costs and will not ​fully ​cover expenses even with the recent cuts. The School Board ​may decide to use district reserves to cover the remaining expenses. ​​

A hearing on the district’s proposed​ ​$198 million certified budget for 2016-17 will be held at 7 p.m. on April 11 at the Learning Resource Center, 3550 Mills Civic Parkway, in West Des Moines.

Topics: Budget, School Board News