The Iowa City Community School District’s Board’s policy governance model does not excuse the board from asking critical questions of and demanding accountability from the superintendent, who was hired in the spring of 2010. Within the broad categories of the budget certified by the ICCSD Board, the superintendent presented specific budget cuts to the school board. Those cuts included eliminating the German program, 7th grade football, and 4th grade orchestra among other cuts. Cuts were not done because these programs themselves were too expensive. Instead, the programs which were cut were perceived by the superintendent as the easiest alternative to offset the increase in costs which have occurred in the district, mostly in other areas.
Below are some of the district’s General Fund Expenditures for the fiscal year period 2009 to 2013 as shown in ICCSD’s Certified Annual Financial Report (CAR), which can be found on the Iowa Department of Education’s website.* The General Fund of a school district is used to cover the ordinary expenses of running the school district that are not found in other funds.
|General Fund Expenditures||2009||2013||Percent Change from 2009 to 2013|
|Attendance and Social Work Services||$236,435.45||$849,716.10||259.39|
|Administration Technology Services||$573,785.28||$836,359.30||45.76|
|Executive Administration Services||$1,330,718.02||$1,818,137.07||36.63|
|Business Administration Fiscal Services||$893,004.71||$1,153,066.60||29.12|
|Library Media Services||$3,154,407.05||$3,746,289.76||18.76|
|Board of Education Services||$273,442.94||$314,685.60||15.08|
|Improvement of Instruction Services||$2,745,605.56||$3,109,242.98||13.24|
|Operation and Maintenance of Plant Services||$9,928,087.25||$11,181,103.36||12.62|
|School Administration Services||$5,231,276.07||$5,831,898.84||11.48|
The state authorized allowable growth in 2009 was 4%, 2010 4%, 2011 2%, 2012 0%, and 2013 2%. While there are many revenue sources that make up the General Fund and impact how much a school district can spend, absent additional state aid, it makes sense for a district to keep General Fund Expenditures per student in some alignment with the allowable growth percentage (around 12.5% or so for the above time period).
Examined another way, General Fund Expenditures went up about 16.92% during the same time period while General Fund Revenues increased about 13.42%.
Oddly, General Fund (and PPEL also) transportation expenditures have gone down, even as the number of students and fuel costs have increased, making me wonder whether transportation expenses have been sliced too much.
Are there firm conclusions that can be drawn from the above? Yes, in some areas, the district has increased spending far in excess of allowable growth. Now is the time to discuss whether there have been specific corresponding increases in revenue, which offset specific expenditures, and whether the increases have resulted in improved student performance.
Further, I’d like to see the board discuss publicly whether students, for example, would benefit more from increased access to foreign languages and participation in music and activities like football than some of the other expenses ICCSD spends its money on. Discussions about what to spend money on are values and priorities based discussions the board should be having more of.
Unless spending is kept under control, further cuts in academic and extra-curricular activities are likely. While hindsight is always 20/20, it is time to take a harder look at expenditures, including those that may have been funded by grants and no longer are, in front of the public.
Although I am not surprised, I remain disappointed that the superintendent chose not to involve parents and most of the front line staff, including teachers, in making budget cuts. It is not too late for the board to insist on this. The only question is will these elected board members rectify the superintendent’s omission?
*To access ICCSD’s Certified Annual Financial Reports (and other districts as well), click on https://www.educateiowa.gov/pk-12/certified-annual-financial-reports-car. To access ICCSD’s mostly recently filed CAR, click on 1213_sfin_CAR_data DR.xlsb at https://www.educateiowa.gov/documents/certified-annual-financial-reports-car/2014/04/2012-2013-car. Then select “Iowa City” as the district in the upper left hand corner. To see “General Fund Expenditures by Function by Object,” click on General Exp at the bottom to see “General Fund Expenditures by Function by Object.”