By Katie Dahlstrom Herald Staff Writer
The Clinton Herald
---- — PRESTON — The Easton Valley School Board on Thursday night approved an $8.2 million budget that includes a tax levy that is lower than the rates at the two merging districts.
Because the Iowa Legislature has yet to set allowable growth — the state aid the district will receive next year — the budget will be published on April 15 in order to be certified with a 0 percent allowable growth rate. The Legislature has discussed allowable growth rates ranging from 2 to 4 percent, but nothing has been finalized.
With a 0 percent allowable growth, the tax levy for next fiscal year will be 12.44 per $1,000 of assessed value. The East Central School District’s current levy is $13.94 and the Preston School District currently has a $12.96 levy.
The levy rate for Easton Valley is lower in part because of a $1 tax break reorganized districts receive from the state. This $1 will gradually go away over a period of four years.
Easton Valley Business Manager Adam Crigger worked with the finances of the Preston and East Central school districts to determine the expenditures and revenues for Easton Valley. The general fund budget includes the district costs, unspent balances, preschool funding, instructional support levy and miscellaneous income from both school districts.
Board member Tom Feuerbach asked Crigger if he was confident in all the numbers received when creating the budget for the district’s inaugural school year.
Crigger responded that he felt all the information was accurate and even though there would be some changes in the numbers between when the budget is published and when the fiscal year actually begins on July 1, the budget has a cushion built in.
“This is just setting the picture framework for what your district could look like, it’s meeting state requirements and when it’s all said and done it sets your tax rate,” Crigger said.
Crigger also explained that the district will not use the Iowa income surtax to fund programs for the new school district.
“Even if you add a buck to that, you’re up to $13.44, it’s still lower than a lot of the other school districts, especially when you take into consideration we don’t have an income tax surtax,” Crigger said.
Easton Valley will absorb a 10 percent instructional support levy the Preston and East Central districts currently utilize that allows them to increase revenues to their general fund. This levy is set to expire in 2016 and is accounted for in the 12.44 levy.
Board member Richard Keeney pointed out that despite concerns that the new district would negatively affect the tax levy, the results are favorable.
“After all these years of finally getting to the point where we have a new school district...our taxes didn’t triple,” Keeney said.