Newspaper Archive of
N. Warren Town and County News
Norwalk, Iowa
April 1, 2010     N. Warren Town and County News
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April 1, 2010

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Thursday, April 1, 2010 N/Warren Town and County News Page Seven DENNY WULF Concluded from p. 1 you have read, the high school program is moving to- ward tiered diplomas and electronic portfolios to raise achievement and demonstrate student competency of the Iowa Core. All across Iowa, secondary schools are changing to meet the 2010-11 Iowa Core planning dead- line. To get more information on the secondary changes, see our website regarding "tiered diplomas." Likewise, elementary schools will be asked to raise the bar and implement the Iowa Core by 2012. The tiered diplo- mas, electronic portfolios and 2-3 looping changes are some of the changes that will result from the new laws. As a result, I will be recommending that the present second graders be allowed to finish their loop into third grade next year. I will also recommend that we not start a new loop at second grade. As it stands now, the situ- ation is not conducive to our 2-3 looping teachers, and as a result, it is not conducive for their students. In many ways, change is good. However, change is always hard. If you have questions about 2-3 loopIng, please call Prin- cipal Martinez at Oviatt Elementary. Salaries: At the conclusion of my last article, I said that I would share some salary comparisons to clarify an article from the Indianola Record-Herald. There are many public discussions from Matt McCoy and others regarding "one superintendent per district" and simi- lar conversations, like the one in the Record- Herald ar- ticle. These conversations have rightfully resulted in more data being available for superintendent's salaries than any other classification in education. First, to help you understand the superintendent's salary, I used three different measures of my own sal- ary: 1) Salary rank compared to all Iowa schools; 2) com- parability within our county; 3) comparability within a like-sized group (schools with 2000-3000 student enroll- ments); 4) comparability with "golden circle" schools. This information comes from the Basic Education Data System (BEDs) located at the Department of Education website and surveys. Here are some results: 1) Norwalk is approximately the 34  largest district in Iowa last year; Norwalk superintendent's salary was 53 rd in the state; 2) Norwalk superintendent salary ranks 3 rd of the four full-time superintendents in our county; 3) There are 43 Iowa districts with over 2000 students. Norwalk su- perintendent ranks 37 . There are 14 districts between 2000 and 3000 students: Norwalk superintendent ranks 8 th of 14; 4) The Record-Herald cited a study of 12 golden circle schools. They ranged from small 3A schools to Iowa's largest school. Norwalk superinten- dent salary ranked 12 th Of these highly competitive schools. But, similar rankings hold true for our teacher's salaries and administrative salaries when compared to these affluent districts. In respect to average principal salaries, Norwalk is the 34  largest district. Norwalk's average principal's salary is 46  (when curriculum director salary is not included). Comparability for my administrative team is a little bit more difficult to ascertain since we are the largest district that does not have a full-time curricu- lum director. Dr. Sivadge and Mark Crady perform this duty in addition to their principal duties. Together, they earn approximately $16,000 total for curriculum work. Since the average curriculum director in Iowa earns approximately $80,000, paying Laura and Mark $16,000 total is quite a bargain for the district. But, it certainly stretches them thin. As we grow, changes will be re- quired. Another wise investment for the district was to re- place assistant principals with deans. As many of you recall Norwalk conducted a study of Waukee, Johnston and other districts. These districts replaced more ex- pensive assistant principals with deans/counselors. In central Iowa, assistant principals beginning salary ex- ceeds $70,000 and 'increases over time. Norwalk deans beginning salary was $54,000 and increases over time. In conclusion, the Norwalk superintendent and admin- istrators are well paid and treated fairly by the Norwalk district. Like everyone else right now, we are glad to have a job! Incidentally, probably the most startling statistic in this whole article has nothing to do with salaries. Did you notice ....... ??? ...... we have the 50  largest high school in Iowa. But, when you calculate the entire dis- trict (K-12), we are 34 th largest school district in Iowa. As these classes of 200+ replace classes of 180, can anyone doubt that we will be 4A soon? Very soon? The trends are dear. We are preparing classrooms and facilities as fast as we can! Grow Warriors! SUBSCRIBE TODAY! Send $18 check or money order for a one year subscription to PO Box 325, Norwalk, IA 50211 " BALDWIN Concluded from p. 1 . The Board of Directors began to establish a reserve fund in 2003. The reserve fund was created by utilizing new funding sources such as the Instructionai Support levy that redirected the current general fund levy to a new levy that would also provide matching state aid. The Board was able to make this levy switch in July of 2003 without increasing the total levy. The Board began other fiscal management practices that provided internal spending controls that would assure expenses would not exceed total revenues. The District also implemented new pur- chasing policies to avoid the potential to overspend line item budgets. And finally, administration employed cost-benefit analysis techniques along with a song review of education research data to determine if existing or new programs merited the necessary resources to operate. Budgeting is primarily an exercise of setting priorities and long-term planning. The Board set an expectation to create a cash reserve and the goal was achieved. Why is it important for Norwalk Schools to maintain a strong Cash Reserve? • The State has imposed mid-year state aid funding cuts in five of the last nine years. That is not a good track record of stability. Seventy percent of the Norwalk School's operating revenue is state aid. This year the District lost over $1,000,000 in state aid revenues when the governor imposed the 10% cut. Without a Cash Reserve to fall back on, the District would have been forced to cut educational programs midyear or borrow funds from a bank. • The State only budgets one year out based on March estimate of revenues from sales and income taxes for the following year. As a result, the state increases or decreases a school district's revenues from year to year based on the fluctuations of state revenues. In order to create stability for local educational programming, the school must budget 2-3 years out. The Cash Reserve serves as a buffer to cash flow through decreases in state funding. • The District's total annual student enrollment has •moderate fluctuation swings. Iowa schools are funded from year to year on a per-pupil basis, meaning the total annual enrollment of a district determines the general operating total revenues for a given school year. If K-12 enrollment drops by 30 students, total funding will drop by approximately $180,000. However, not all of the 30 students would be in one grade level or program, so it is very difficult to cut a grade level teacher or program teacher due to the decline in funding. Also, on a trend basis, Norwalk Schools is a district with a growing student enrollment• If we cut a teacher one year due to a decline in enrollment, the District could very likely be hiring a replacement teacher the following year due to an increase of 30 students. Maintaining a Cash Reserve to buffer these total enrollment swings insulates students and programs from year to year funding declines. • Under Iowa law, the only way a school district is able to recoup a state aid cut is to impose a Cash Reserve levy. If the Norwalk School District were to recapture the October 2009 $1,000,000 state aid cut, next year's levy would increase by $3.18/$1000• Norwalk is a high property tax district. Raising the levy by this amount in one year is not feasible. Maintaining a strong Cash Reserve allows the Board to avoid raising property taxes drasti- "" cally, especially in difficult economic times. Instead the Cash Reserve fund allows the Board to rebuild the reserve over a period of years in smaller increments. It will take the District 5-7 years to recapture the $1,000,000 cut. • A Cash Reserve provides job stability to school employees and employee confidence. Employee turnover is costly and often leads to disruptions in the organizational operations. • The District needs to maintain a minimum cash reserve of $3,500,000 to meet operational cash flow needs during the summer months when the District receives no State Aid or property tax revenues• On average, the District expends approximately $1,400,000 to $1,500,000 per month on general operating expenses. • The level of adequate Cash Reserves varies by school district, depending upon the total operational budget, growth trends, property valuation capacity and financial factors. Just like any other business, maintaining a short-term emergency fund is a sound fiscal practice. That is the practice and goal of the Norwalk Cash Reserve fund balance. Why is the levy going down? • New business and residential properties were added to the tax base during the past year. The total school tax base grew by 5% during the past year. The average annual growth over the past five years is 7.7%. • The State has decreased the annual General Fund revenue growth next year from 4% to 2°/O, reducing the total funding per student. This percentage is commonly referred to as the annual "allowable growth." The reduction in allowable growth reduced the total amount of future state aid and property tax revenues available for the 2010- 2011 school year, resulting in a reduced total levy. • The State is providing incremental property tax relief to select school districts with property levies above the state average (Norwalk's property tax relief for next year will be $2.29 per $1,000). The School District began receiving this additional State Aid for property tax relief in the 2006-2007 school year. The Norwalk School Board is acutely aware that Norwalk is still one of the highest property tax jurisdictions in the State. As a result, your School District chooses not to impose several additional levies that many other school districts levy. Examples are levies for Increased Enrollment, Special Education program deficits, At-Risk, Play- ground Improvements and Cash Reserve. Each year the Board carefully reviews these additional levie, exercis- ing extreme caution in balancing the needs of our students and the interests of the property tax payers. NORWALK COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT TOTAL PROPERTY TAX LEVY $23.50, TOTAL PROPERTY TAX LEVY $23.00 $22.50 $22.00 $21.50 $21.00 $20.50 $20.00 $19.50 $19.00 We all grow up with the weight of history on us. Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden in every cell of our bodies. -Shirley Abbott .i