The governor has signed three education-related bills into law. The first forces the state’s K-through-12 public schools to dip into their cash reserves first before they hike property taxes to cover a reduction in state aid.
That reduction is the result of the 10%, across-the-board spending cut Governor Culver ordered in October.
“We think this is a fair requirement during these challenging fiscal times to ask the 361 school districts to spend down a portion of their cash reserves before they look at any option related to property tax increase,” Culver says.
According to the governor, schools should be looking for “efficiencies” and ways to save money rather than just looking for another source of funding.
“So the combination of efficiencies and using cash reserves should limit any additional property tax increases,” Culver says. But an Iowa Farm Bureau analysis released today (Wednesday) concludes at least 133 school districts will be unable to cover the cut in state aid this year and will ask local property owners for up to 115-million more in taxes.
The two other bills Culver signed into law delay a decision on state aid to public schools for the academic year that begins in the fall of 2011. Culver says it gives the state “flexibility” as that decision on what’s called the level of “allowable growth” in state spending for schools would normally be made in the next few weeks.
“This means as the economy improves, the state will not be bound to today’s economic forecast in funding our schools,” Culver says. “So the hope here is the economy will further turn around which means we’ll be able to set that allowable growth number at a higher number to support our schools.” Senator Brian Schoenjahn, a Democrat from Arlington, noted all three bills received bipartisan support.
“This is an opportunity for us to work with our economy and work with our school districts as we work through difficult economic times,” Schoenjahn says. Schoenjahn taught in the Starmont Community Schools from 1972 to 2005. His wife still teaches physical education to elementary school students in the Starmont district. The cities of Arlington, Strawberry Point and Lamont are part of the Starmont School District.