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Kibbie: Zero allowable growth for schools

By Staff | Apr 5, 2011

It appears that school districts that have already cut to the bone will have to cut into the bone with zero percent allowable growth expected for the coming budget year.

It would be one thing if things would stay the same for school districts. But with a mandated increase in district contributions to IPERS (the state retirement system), health insurance increases and possible salary increases or at the very least aging of salary schedules, schools will have to cut services or raise property taxes – and maybe both.

Allowable growth was a front-and-center topic at Saturday’s legislative town hall meeting at the Estherville Public Library Community Room. Sen. Jack Kibbie and Rep. John Wittneben discussed that and a number of other issues.

Wittneben said the 2 percent allowable growth that Democrats in both houses want would not begin to cover increased costs schools face. And, while House Republicans are proposing vouchers to help lower-income families pay for preschool in lieu of the present fully funded system, there wouldn’t be any money to fund vouchers, Wittneben said.

“This was an institution that started because big business asked for it,” Wittneben said of preschools. “I don’t know what they’re (school districts) going to do.”

Zero allowable growth would raise property taxes 85 cents for each $1,000 of assessed valuation while 2 percent would raise them a quarter.

“It’s kind of like how are you going to pay for it, not are you going to pay for it,” Wittneben said.

Kibbie said while the House passed no funding for 4-year-olds for preschool, preschool is tied to the education funding bill.

“To veto preschool, he’s (Gov. Branstad) got to veto K-12 as well,” Kibbie said, adding that the governor is also insisting on zero percent allowable growth. Kibbie said each percent amounts to $30 million in education funding statewide.

“I think you’ve got to base your budget on zero percent,” Kibbie is advising school superintendents.

However, it appears that Branstad will have difficulty in changing state preschool funding to a voucher system, he said.

“That’s a little difficult for Republicans to get rid of because of the formula,” Kibbie said.

“Politically, it’s not that we don’t have the money. The money is there,” Kibbie said.

“To not fund education properly, that’s just not right to me,” Wittneben said.