As a public institution, the Cedar Rapids Community School District relies on significant monies from local, State and Federal sources. These public monies at the local level come in the form of property taxes and various grant programs. State resources come in the form of income surtaxes, sales tax revenues, grants and foundation aid. Federal sources in the form of grants and aid, such as Title I, Carl Perkins and Food & Nutrition program support are utilized.
It is critical as a public institution to be good stewards of public monies and maintain public trust at the highest level. The Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada, (GFOA) awards a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting and the Association of School Business Officials International, (ASBO) awards a Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting.
The Cedar Rapids Community School District received both of these Certificates for its comprehensive annual financial report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015. This was the 21st consecutive year that the District has earned both prestigious awards. Only ten other school Districts in Iowa have earned this distinction for the most recent year ending June 30, 2015. This achievement is most representative of the District’s many efforts to operate with fiscal integrity, efficiency, and effectiveness.
The dashboard metrics that follow provide relevant budget and financial information for our school community.
Certified Enrollment Trends: The corresponding exhibit shows that for fiscal year 2016-2017, certified enrollments increased by 96 students over the previous year. This marks what appears to be a trend of enrollment stability in recent years. To date, the Cedar Rapids Community School District has experienced an overall loss of one third of total enrollment since the 1969-70 school year, when District enrollment was approximately 25,000 students.
Open Enrollment Trends: Since the inception of open enrollment in the State of Iowa in 1991, the Cedar Rapids Community School District has been a net exporter of resident students to other neighboring school districts. The net gap between those students open enroll in to the District versus those who choose to open enroll out of our District continues to widen over time. This net out migration carries considerable costs to the District amounting to $5.23 million in fiscal year 2016 alone.
Tax Levy Comparability: The Cedar Rapids Community School District’s tax rate remains relatively low when compared with the Urban Education Network, (Iowa’s eight largest school Districts) and Linn County public school Districts. The corresponding exhibits show the District ranks third lowest in the UEN and second lowest amongst Linn County School Districts. The current levy rate of $15.38 means that for every $1,000 of taxable valuation on all agriculture, commercial and residential property within the District’s geographic boundaries, a tax of $15.38 is assessed.
Property Tax Valuation trends in the accompanying exhibit, represent changes in the total taxable value of all agriculture, commercial and residential property within the District’s geographic boundaries over time. For fiscal year 2017 growth in the property tax base was 0.2%. Average growth in taxable valuations over the past ten years has been 2%. In general, increases in property valuations that exceed increases in tax requirements from public entities, benefit taxpayers by providing for a decline in the property tax levy rate.
Unspent Balance trends are shown in the corresponding exhibit. Unspent Balance is the term used in school finance to describe the unspent “spending authority” remaining at the end of a fiscal year in the District’s General Fund. It is unique to the General Fund only. The General Fund is the largest fund that supports all instructional programming. Spending authority remaining at the end of the fiscal year is the difference between total spending authority the General Fund is granted, less what is expended. This difference accumulates from previous years making up the Unspent Balance. The Unspent Balance has declined significantly beginning with fiscal year 2012. For fiscal year 2016 the Unspent Balance increased to $7.1 million. Though this is an improvement, it still represents approximately 3.7% of the General Fund budget. The Iowa Association of School Boards recommends a reserve level of between 5-10%.
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