CEDAR RAPIDS — After legislators agreed Tuesday to increase state school aid by 2.25 percent for the 2016-2017 budget year, local superintendents weren’t surprised, though some were disappointed.
“This doesn’t quite get us to the finish line, which is unfortunate,” Linn-Mar schools Superintendent Quintin Shepherd said. “It’s less than what a number of schools are going to need as they look forward to next year.”
The Republican-controlled House, Democrat-led Senate and GOP Gov. Terry Branstad have all volleyed possible budget increase rates over recent months. The Iowa Senate shot for 4 percent, while the House agreed to 2 percent. Branstad said in January he hoped to secure a 2.45 percent increase.
To break even, Linn-Mar needed a number closer to 3.3 percent, Shepherd said. Anticipating the Legislature would fall short, the district has already figured $519,000 of reductions into its budget. Many of those were operational but some were in personnel, including an administrator.
With personnel costs eating up about 80 percent of most district budgets, superintendents who had hoped for better news also likely will face cutting positions.
“There’s no way that this won’t lead to reductions in staff,” said Brad Buck, Cedar Rapids superintendent.
To avoid any reductions, Buck said the Cedar Rapids district needed a 3.72 percent increase. But realistically, he didn’t expect the Legislature to agree to that.
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“I’m disappointed in that I thought they would at least get to the governor’s recommended level, that 2.45 percent,” Buck said. “The difference between 2.45 and 2.25 for us is about $300,000 in additional reductions.”
Solon school Superintendent Davis Eidahl also had hoped for a rate closer to Branstad’s estimate. But because of years of strict budgeting, he said he doesn’t expect to make any cuts.
“I was optimistic that we would land somewhere between 2 and 2.5, so I was glad that we got that; it fell within that range,” Eidahl said. “And if revenues aren’t up in Iowa, we’re glad to take what we can get.”