Concerns arose at Monday’s Waterloo School Board meeting as the budget presented included an estimated shortfall of $254,339.
The shortfall isn’t as high as expected. The shortfall was anticipated to be $391,129, which the district explained was a result of receiving the final ESSER II funding totals, incorporating the certified state aide, finalized revenue limit calculation, updated staffing and salary information, updated pupil count, open enrollment and completing additional reviews of all budget items.
Superintendent Brian Henning alluded to the funding formula by the state and revenue limits in place constricting school budgets.
“I think the majority of the issue, of course, is what happens in Madison, and what happened this year was catastrophic considering inflation,” Superintendent Brian Henning said. “The other side of it that’s unfortunate and it’s a little hard to explain real easily to people, but our costs of doing business and the needs in the district aren’t going down. The needs and the costs are going up, and then does this random number the revenue limit generates for us, does that meet our needs? The answer is no.”
Henning reiterated that he and other administrators have done all they can do on the expenditure side to address the shortfall.
“Anything we do going forward now hurts and cuts pretty deeply. It can be done. We can cut teachers and cut administrators and cut sports – whatever you want to cut. Mathematically it can be done, but it has a compounding effect also because then now you’re not offering the same things other schools are offering, and you start losing kids to open enrollment and all of those things,” Henning said.
The shortfall was enough for Board Vice President Kate Lewandowski to speak up and make it known she wasn’t comfortable approving the budget.
“I don’t how the rest of you can even sit here and listen to Brian talk about that, and not want to look into an operating referendum,” Lewandowski said. “It’s fine if you are upset I am going to vote no on this because then there will be some action on this and maybe I won’t be the only voice saying, ‘We need to go to an operating referendum,’ and ask the public for our students, for our teachers and for our school. We need to do it.”
Board President Nancy Thompson clarified that putting the possibility of an operating referendum up for vote at the meeting could not be done because it was not on an agenda.
“I hear you. I have been asking for us to do this for a year now and it has not happened. The finance committee was supposed to take it up and report back, and they haven’t. So, I’m continuing to be the lone voice on that,” Lewandowski said.
When asked by Thompson if she would like an operating referendum placed on an upcoming agenda for discussion, Lewandowski replied “yes.”
“I would like us to have data that has been asked for. What are other districts doing? What are our needs? I want to have the data in front of us and I want to actually discuss it,” Lewandowski said. “I haven’t been on the board when we’ve had a referendum before. I don’t know what those needs are, but I haven’t seen any data and we haven’t had any discussion.”
Thompson said the focus would be shifted on moving ahead with the budget and an operating referendum will be discussed at a future meeting.
“We’ll initiate a process to check in to having a referendum, and what that process is going to be. Is it going to be to start with a board committee? Is it going to be start with the finance committee or start with whatever? And perhaps (we would) put a timeline in place, but we have to do something with this budget tonight,” Thompson said.
The budget was approved.
The actual mill rate will be $8.86, or $886 on a $100,000 home. That was a $0.15 change from the annual school board meeting when it was proposed to be $8.71. The 2020-21 mill rate was $9.74.
“I saw (the) Marshall (School District) was advertising a double digit decrease in their mill rate. We are almost a full-point decrease,” Henning said. “Depending on what happens with the other taxes, people will see a significant decrease locally from their school taxing.”
General aid will be $5,650,648, which is $43,967 less than what was expected at the time of the annual meeting. It was expected the district would receive $5,694,615.
Fund 10, which is the general levy, will be $3,164,339, which is an increase of $259,336 over what was projected at the annual meeting when it was forecast to be $2,905,003.
Referendum debt service, which is Fund 39, will be $1,066,399, a decrease of $1,077,399 from the projection at the annual meeting.
The fee for full-time equivalent membership averages will be $802, which was $5 less than predicted at the annual meeting when it was forecast to be $807.
Equalized property value is now $506,555,958, a $20,024,022 increase.
The community service fund, which is Fund 80, remained unchanged at $326,725.
The total tax levy will be $4,488,699, a change of $248,336 from the proposal at the annual meeting.