The Ballard School Board met for its March meeting last week and unanimously approved the budget for Fiscal Year 2019, with a property tax rate of $19.57197, up slightly from last year’s rate of $19.53.
The largest change in the expenditures budget is the Instruction category, which is scheduled for an increase of 5.3 percent, due mostly to staffing changes and increases in salary and benefit packages.
The overall property tax rate of $19.57 is significantly affected by Tax Increment Finance (TIF) agreements, which account for 10 percent of the total rate at Ballard. TIF is a consistent topic of debate amongst governmental leaders at both the state and city levels across the United States. During a presentation to the board, Superintendent Ottie Maxey described the impact of TIF on the overall property tax rate in the Ballard School District.
According to Maxey, TIF agreements in the district account for an increase of $1.81 of the $19.57 total — the second-highest increase in the state behind the Clear Creek Amana School District. As a percentage of TIF to total taxable valuation, Ballard’s mark of 24.4 percent is the sixth highest in the state of Iowa. Maxey mentioned that the average levy increase statewide as a result of TIF is 40 cents.
“TIF does not impact Ballard’s revenue, but it contributes to the overall levy rate,” said Maxey. “It is assumed by many, including myself, that TIF has contributed to the population enrollment growth at Ballard.”
While the Ballard School District does not lose any money as a result of TIF, the loss of revenue to the general fund as a result of TIF agreements becomes the responsibility of the taxpayers at a rate of $1.81, with $500,000 in additional aid from the state to backfill lost revenue, according to Maxey.
Overall, the school board and administration are pleased with the current financial standing and future financial projections for the district. “Every fund balance that we are projecting out is healthy and comfortable,” said Maxey. “We’re trending well. If enrollment goes up, this projection would look even better.”
In other school
•Ballard High School music and band students will be taking a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., the spring of 2019, as the board approved the out-of-state travel request by Band Director Derrick Hawks and Music Director Peter Krum. The projected cost per student is estimated at around $1,000. Rather than each group taking their own trip every year, they will do combined trips every other year, according to Hawks. The department heads plan to utilize Bob Rogers Travel Agency, which is the preferred travel agency for schools taking trips to Walt Disney World, according to Hawks.
•Harold Pike Construction was on-hand to discuss the advantages of utilizing Construction Management for the middle school renovation. Curtis Pike lobbied that Construction Managers assume all of the risk on projects, taking that burden off of the school district. “I fully support the fact that this is a board decision,” said Maxey. “I feel like, as a superintendent, my responsibility is to provide the board with all of their options, transparently.”