School districts across the state are moving ahead with cuts or tax increases to make up for shortfalls as they prepare new budgets. The state’s two largest public school districts are cutting between four and seven percent of their fulltime teaching positions — however their cuts are for different reasons. Cedar Rapids is the second largest district and has seen enrollment drop by about 500 students to around 17,000.
Superintendent Dave Benson says the flood of 2008 coupled with the bad economy are the reasons for declining enrollment. Benson says cutting sixty full-time teaching positions is necessary to save the district about five million dollars. “Periodically you simply have to do this or your expenses for faculty will get away from you and you can’t balance your budget,” Benson says.
Benson says most cuts will come through retirements or resignations — but 23 teachers will receive layoff notices in the coming weeks.
“We’re trying to adjust our faculty size to reflect the educational program needed for the students for next year and hopefully we will get some of those students back as the flood recovery process goes on, Benson says. The state’s largest school district in Des Moines voted Tuesday to cut 251 positions — including 173 teachers.
Des Moines school officials say they have to make the cuts because of an 11-million dollar shortfall in state funding. The district had been looking at the possibility of cutting 350 jobs, but were able to lower that number after better than expected revenue projections. The Ankeny school board voted Monday to raise property taxes by $2.51 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to deal with state budget cuts. Ankeny officials say they will also look for ways to make cuts in the budget.
The Sioux City school board just approved a one-percent sales tax increase. Other districts, such as Newton, have closed buildings to save money.