Supporters of Central Community School,
Our Senator Mike Klemish, and State Representatives Anne Osmundson and Michael Bergan are currently working with Iowa’s Legislators and the Governor to determine public school funding, known as State Supplemental Assistance, or SSA. The legislature provides funding to public schools through a formula. Their job is to set the percent increase in the cost per pupil for the next school year. This message is intended to grow awareness of the challenges our school district faces and how decisions at the State level have an effect on those challenges.
The Central Board of Directors and I have been meeting on a regular basis to explore solutions to tackle the worker shortage and inflation of wages. I'd like to share with you what I have had to share with them so you have a better understanding of the challenges we face locally and how those challenges are directly related to decisions made at the State level.
First a little history/background. From 2017 to 2021, our State Supplemental Assistance (our per-pupil funding) has an average growth of 1.74%. Over that same time period, Central's expenditures have grown at 6.47%. This has led to a very limited ability to raise wages over the past five years, resulting in the following starting wages at Central: $10.25 - Cooks $11.00 - Custodians $11.17 - Paraprofessional With inflation and a worker shortage, the private sector is raising wages to $15.00/hour or higher. In order to fill the above positions, we have to be able to compete with all employers.
The changes to Iowan’s Collective Bargaining laws, known as Chapter 20, set a process for school staff to appeal the salary increase our school board offers to an arbitrator. The law binds an arbitrator’s award to either the rate of inflation, known as CPI which is set by the Iowa Public Employment Relations Board and our state Department of Workforce Development, or 3%, whichever is lower. The CPI rates set for May and June arbitration decisions are currently set at 7.3% and 7.5% respectively. Unless that drastically changes, all districts in Iowa will be forced to settle at 3%. With teacher shortages, inflation, and wage increases, our teachers are rightly going to be asking for more than that.
In our school board meetings, I've shared three 5-year projections that all show Central settling with our teachers at a 3% increase, increasing our hourly wages by $1.00, and keeping our property taxes the same. The difference between the three spreadsheets is the State Supplemental Assistance amount. In the three examples, I used 2.5% (the amount the Governor included in her budget), 3%, and 4%. Under the 2.5% and 3% models, Central is deficit spending in all projected years. Only under the 4% model is Central's cash maintained over the first three projected years before deficit spending in years four and five. Central's projected ending fund balance are as follows :
2.5% SSA = $460,610
3% SSA = $589,070
4% SSA = $846,075
As a reference to what these numbers mean, last Monday the School Board discussed their comfort level indicating anything under $800,000 would mean cutting expenses.
Similar to our own personal budgets, we can't take in a 2.5% increase in wages and pay out +3% in expenses without something having to go. With a previous 5-year SSA average of 1.74%, I am unsure how we make things any tighter without cutting programs to our students and community.
I am asking you to share this information and really challenge our elected representatives on why only 2.5% growth in State Supplemental Aid? We heard from the Governor that the State has so much money, ending FY 2021 with a $1.2 Billion surplus, we need to give it back. If this is the case, why has public education been funded at such low levels over the last 5 years? I also question if we have the extra public tax dollars to support non-public education through vouchers, then why can we only support our public schools at 2.5%?
Our Representatives and Senator represent communities with amazing public schools. The towns they represent thrive on school activities. Over 90% of Iowa students attend public schools. We are asking our delegation in Des Moines to please push for a minimum of 3% SSA and anything more would drastically help our efforts to compete with current wage increases. This is so important for our students, so they have the teachers, bus drivers, paraprofessionals, food service workers and all the staff necessary to keep them safe, provide them with an excellent education, and prepare them for their amazing future.
Thank you for your continued support of the Central Community School District. There is no greater investment than our kids and our future!
Central Superintendent/Elementary Principal