Central Lee School District budget woes

(Donnellson, Ia.) - Iowa Governor Chet Culver's proposed budget for fiscal year 2010 calls for four percent allowable growth for spending in school districts. But that proposal would only fund two percent allowable growth. KHQA's Jarod Wells checked in with one area school district to find out what the proposed budget would mean for the district for this KHQA FactFinder Report.

John Henricksen serves as superintendent of the Central Lee School District in Donnellson. He says if Iowa lawmakers adopt the governor's proposal, school districts will be shorter in cash next school year. In fact, he says the proposal would mean more than $180,000 less for Central Lee. Henricksen says the district was able to save some money through attrition during the past few years. But he says schools throughout the state will have three options to deal with cash shortfalls -- reduce expenditures, short-term borrowing or increasing the overall levy rate.

"You don't want to lose programs, obviously," said Henricksen. "You can cut expenditures only so far, you have to offer the necessary programs. We have excellent viable programs that are important to Central Lee. We won't let that fall by the wayside. We'll tackle this challenge in other ways."

Henrickson said Central Lee is like most school districts and will use a combination of all three options. If it's forced to raise the overall levy fund, it will look at lowering other levies to offset the increase. But even if Central Lee were to receive funding for all four percent allowable growth it would still see a cash shortfall of $37,000 because of decreased enrollment.

What are the main things that could be seen because of either of these budget issues?

"I don't think that students or parents are going to see any changes in the overall operations at Central Lee," said Henricksen. "We're not looking at reducing programs. We're not looking at reducing staff."

Henrickson said Central Lee will continue to examine every position that opens up to see if it needs to be filled. He said the district currently does do some short-term, low-interest borrowing as well.

Henrickson says the district has seen a decrease in enrollment during the past few years.

He credits this to smaller families and people moving to metropolitan areas for job opportunities.