Business manager anticipates lower mill rate for ’20-’21 | School

Residents in the Waterloo School District will likely see a shift in their school taxes. During the Sept. 28 district budget hearing and annual meeting, Business Director Sharon Peterson said based on the current financial information, the 2020-2021 mill rate could decrease by roughly 8% for a total of $9.52. The 2019-2020 mill rate was $10.35.

The mill rate is determined by the equalized value of the district and the tax levy. This year, Peterson anticipates a 4.69% increase in property value. When property values increase, the mill rate decrease; when values decrease, the mill rate increases.

While budget numbers – including the mill rate – will not be finalized until the district’s pupil count, equalized value is calculated, and the state aid is certified, the budget presented at the meeting showed a general fund budget shows decreases in revenue and increase in revenue compared to the 2019-2020 budget.

The 2020-2021 general fund revenue is estimated to be $9,973,438, a decrease of $180,338.31 (or 1.78 %) compared to the previous year.

Peterson said open enrollment into the district, which makes up part of the general fund revenue, has already made a positive impact on the 2020-2021 budget. According to her presentation, the students opting to open enroll into the district has generated $380,066 in general fund revenue. This represents a nearly 34% increase in that fund that accounts for 3.81% of the fund’s revenue.

The local sources, which comprises 32.89% of the general fund revenue, and transit of grant funds from intermediate sources are also set to increase for a total amount of $3,280,234 and $2,559.80 respectively.

However, the district is estimating a roughly 3.73% decrease in state aid, which accounts for 60.61% of Waterloo School District’s general fund revenue. Based on Peterson’s calculations, the district may receive $6,044,441 in state aid, a decrease of $234,379.98 compared to the 2019-2020 actual budget numbers.

While the general fund revenue is estimated to decrease, its expenses are expected to increase; the proposed expenses for the current year are $10,144,094, roughly $74,000 more than the actual 2019-2020 numbers. Salaries and employee benefits, which together make up 63.55% of the Fund 10 expenses, are anticipated to increase a combined total of $250,304.43 compared to the 2019-2020 fiscal year. Salaries are anticipated to cost the district $4,523,952 and benefits are proposed to account for $1,922,221 of the general fund expenses.

The non-capital objects expenses and insurance premiums are also expected to increase.

However, some expenses are expected to decrease. The district plans to spend less on purchased services, capital objects and operating transfers. The three account for a proposed total expense amount of $3,039451.

“As a school district, we may not receive as much revenue as other school districts do, but I think Waterloo can be proud of what we do with what we’ve been given,” Superintendent Brian Henning said. “This district has a history of being very fiscally sound and making good financial decisions, which is why we’ve been able to stay as stable as we are.”

Peterson pointed out the 2020-2021 fund balance for the general fund started out with $2,558,408.53, an increase of $83,751.24 compared to the previous year. However, based on preliminary budget numbers, the business manager expects to end the fiscal year with a fund balance of $2,387,753.53. This would make it only the third time in the last 12 budget cycles where the fiscal year started with a lower fund balance in the general fund than the previous year. Despite this, Peterson said this is still a stable fund balance.

Looking at the 2019-2020 post-audit numbers, Peterson said there was a budget surplus in the fund balance of Fund 10, the general fund, in the amount of $83,751.

The most dramatic fund balance change for the 2019-2020 budget year was in the capital projects fund which was $15,055,625.30 as of June 30, 2019 and had a fund balance of $3,395,935.53 as of June 30 of this year. Peterson said the district was just finishing up on the projects paid for out of this money.

“What I will say about the projects is the expenses and revenue we had available definitely was spent very well,” she said.

The one fund without a positive outcome was food service fund balance. Peterson said the district needed to make a transfer from the general fund, something she had not seen since being the Waterloo business manager.

“We had a total loss of just under $85,000 and that was due primarily because we had a loss of one-third of a year of our sales and, also, we continued to pay those salaries and benefits throughout the year,” Peterson said, adding Waterloo was not alone in this situation. “Every district lost a vast amount of money in Fund 50 (food service fund) this year. But we will be trying everything that we can to build that back up.”

During the annual meeting, the district electors also:

• Approved the yearly salary of the school board members be $350 for the board president and $300 for all other members. Each board member will also receive a $30 per meeting stipend. Additionally, board members will be reimbursed for appropriate and necessary expenses incurred while carrying out board functions.

• Authorized the school board to furnish textbooks for students, furnish school lunches, use money in the general fund to finance a transportation contract, acquire real estate by purchase or condemnation, and provide for prosecution or defense in proceedings the district has an interest in.

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