Leaders Review Budget Plans for Next Year

The West Des Moines Community Schools is looking to reduce its general fund spending authority for 2015-16. Depending on the amount of funding the legislature approves for education, the district may need to reduce spending by $1 million.

Last year, the administration reported the district would need to reduce spending by approximately $3 million each year for two years. After conducting a budget reduction process last year that included gathering more than 200 cost-saving suggestions, the School Board approved a $2.7 million budget reduction package for the 2014-15 school year. Due to this action and efforts to obtain a one-time additional spending authority allocation from the School Budget Review committee, the district is projected to have a balanced budget for the 2015 fiscal year.

However, reductions in the general fund are still needed for the 2016 fiscal year as anticipated but less than the original $3 million projection. How much will need to be reduced will depend, in part, on the amount of funding the district receives from the state, which has not been determined at this time. At the School Board meeting on Feb. 9, Superintendent Dr. Lisa Remy said the administration will look at the remaining cost-saving suggestions generated last year and turnover savings from an additional early retirement incentive to address the needed reductions.

Budget Myth Busters

Myth # 1: The district can raise taxes to cover the projected deficit and cuts are not needed.
Fact: The Iowa Code through the school funding formula places limits on each of the property tax rate components. The district is currently at the statutory maximum and is not able to increase the general fund property tax rate any further.

Myth #2: The district can stop spending money on renovating buildings, such as Valley, to help its budget situation.
Fact: Building projects are paid for with money from sales tax revenue. Iowa law does not allow school districts to use sales tax money to pay for salaries or academic programs. Sales tax funds can only be used to renovate buildings or build new ones.

Myth #3: The district could use the money it is spending on New Tech to cover the deficit instead of making reductions.
Fact: The money being used for New Tech is primarily from categorical funds within the general fund. According to Iowa Administrative Code, categorical funds can only be spent on services for particular categories of students, special programs, or special purposes. The categorical funds cannot be used on general operating expenses outside of the defined categories.