Republicans say the 10% budget cut called for by Democrat Governor Chet Culver will force school districts to raise property taxes to make up the shortfall. The governor is urging local districts to dip into their cash reserves instead of raising property taxes. The the president of the Iowa Association of School Boards, Jack Hill, says that may not be possible.
Hill says while the governor can ask districts to dip into reserves, not every school district has the reserves available. Hill says schools have few options and may have to raise property taxes to avoid major cuts. He says the makeup of the budget doesn’t leave many “nooks and crannies to go into.” Hill says the overall picture doesn’t tell you the story of each district.
“If you look at the aggregate of cash reserves in the state, they’re quite large. But not every school..is a part of that pot,” Hill says. The executive director of the I.S.E.A., the state’s largest teachers union, Mary Jane Cobb, says local districts have about $400-million in savings.
Cobb says the money is there in sort of a “rainy day fund” kind of situation and the rainy day is here and it’s time to use those cash reserves to meet their program needs. Cobb says the districts should do what they have to do to make sure they maintain the quality of education.
Cobb says the kids in school didn’t choose to come to school in a tough economic situation and they still need to get a quality of education. “If there’s something a district can do to tighten its belt, that’s fine, but what they need to do is look at the quality of the services they’re providing to the kids first,” Cobb says. The 10% budget cut the governor is asking for could mean a $238-million reduction in state aid to K-12 schools.