Graham Says Budget Cuts ‘Necessary’ for Cedar Rapids District

By Meryn Fluker, Reporter

The new Educational Leadership and Support Center for the Cedar Rapids Community School District at 2500 Edgewood Road NW will replace support buildings damaged in the 2008 flood. Photographed on Monday, March 19, 2012, in northwest Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette-KCRG)

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By Katie Stinson

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa- The Cedar Rapids Community School District’s financial forecast includes a round of budget cuts for the 2015 fiscal year.

Executive Director of Business Services Steve Graham delivered the news, part of a budget assumptions presentation, to the district’s school board Monday evening during a regular meeting.

Despite eliminating 67.33 full-time equivalent positions – surpassing the district's goal by 16.73 – for the 2014 fiscal year, undergoing a 215-student enrollment increase, the district’s first uptick since 2008-09 – which is directly tied to increased state funding – and receiving 4-percent supplemental state aid (formerly known as "allowable growth), Graham said the school board will still need to alter the district’s budget in time for the state’s April 15, 2014 deadline for school districts to certify their final fiscal year 2015 budgets.

“It is going to be a combination of spending reductions and new revenues when we’re looking at putting the budget equation together,” Graham said. “We will definitely have to make budget adjustments to put our general fund on the long path of sustainability.”

He cited three reasons that necessitate the cuts: a five-year cumulative 6.1 percent decrease in student enrollment, insufficient increases in state funding paired with increases in employee contracts and continued overspending . Graham estimated the district’s unspent balance at $4.54 million for the current fiscal year, a $6.5 million decrease from 2013.

The budgeting process will ramp up in the new calendar year, Graham said, but it’s too early to tell the impact of potential cuts on class sizes and staff positions.

“This is going to play out over a period of three or four months, for sure,” he said.

The report included a potential bright spot for district residents. The budget assumptions include the goal of maintaining the $15.48 per $1,000 in taxable valuation property tax levy rate, which the board voted to raise in April.

“We’re good stewards of public resources,” Graham said. “We want to be responsible to the local taxpayers.”

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