The Atlantic School Board Monday night discussed, but took no action on the district’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget. Superintendent Dr. Michael Amstein said looking at the current budget, an enrollment increase and factors affecting the budget such as debt service at the high school coming-off in May, and the cost for services at the Hospital School that are contracted out and not billable to Special Education, it becomes clear that the Board will need to look at sending those students to a facility outside of Atlantic, and what those costs would be.
He says revenues should continue to increase, based on enrollment. And, the district recently received an unexpected Title 6-B grant which they hadn’t been eligible for in the past. However due to the district’s Free and Reduced lunch rate, the district received $28,000 through the program. Amstein said a majority of the budget, 80-to 85-percent, will probably have to be used for salaries. One of the unknowns that will affect the final outcome of the budget, is allowable growth. Amstein says he’s “Not an optimist,” in saying that the matter will be addressed early in the Iowa legislative session. He says the board may end up having to make their best guess at what the figure will be, and base their budget on that.”
Amstein says the unknowns are what will make this an “interesting budget year.” He says it will be interesting to learn what the allowable growth rate will be, and secondly, and what the “Repurposing Funds” segment of the budget might look like. In addition, it’s not clear what Governor Branstad’s Education Reform package might look like once it comes out of the legislature.
Amstein says he sees some scenarios that could play into the budgeting process that the board may be facing in the months to come: Zero-percent Allowable Growth; two-percent allowable growth; or maybe even four-percent allowable growth. The percentage will determine how much the district receives from the State in revenue. A Special Education deficit will also affect the outcome of the budget. The General Fund, Amstein says, may take a big hit because of that, and affect the district’s solvency ratio.
The Board and administration, according to Amstein, will do what it can to remain as “Fiscally responsible” as possible, given the current unknowns in the budget.