It is our tradition to provide an update on the state of district finances each February. The timing of this allows each of you, as district patrons, to have this information fresh in your minds as you begin to see district personnel and the school board working through preparation of our budget for the coming year. It also gives context to the coming conversations regarding the tax rate for which the board will seek your support.
The General Fund cash balance continues to be healthy and above the target range, which is the equivalent of three months of operating expenditures. The solvency ratio at the end of last year was 32%, which is also quite positive. We have continued to see our property tax rate decrease, including the addition of a Debt Service Surplus Levy that has allowed us to reduce future principal payments on the General Obligation bond approved in 2007, thus saving tax payers just under $400,000 in future interest payments.
I once again want to express my respect for the work of our school board and staff, as well as support from our community that has helped us reach and maintain this position. Our goal is to be financially sound while providing a quality educational experience for our children.
We are well on our way to the completion of a full facility assessment that will guide conversations about potential facility projects. We continue to work with OPN Architects out of Cedar Rapids and have engaged the help of community members to serve on a Facility Committee. We expect to have an update of this work to the school board on February 18, and like all board meetings, you are welcome to attend. We anticipate multiple community meetings beginning in March and will use all of our communication channels to be sure you have these dates as they approach. It is possible that this study will lead to a General Obligation Bond election, and it our strongest hope that we are able to work with all of our community to shape the potential project as it develops.
Over the course of my years at Alburnett, I hope you have grown to expect my communication to be grounded in an explanation of “why.” “What” and “how” are certainly part of every conversation, but if first we cannot articulate “why” we are traveling a particular path, then we have no business going there. A conversation about large-scale facility work must be the same. The details of facility work will continue to unfold, but today we stay focused on “why.” Why are we talking about large-scale facility projects? First, our enrollment has pushed us to the limits of space. There are approximately 715 students in our building each day. The number of spaces and classrooms needed to support the academic programs of today have pushed us to maximum capacity. Second, while we have much to be proud of with facility updates, there remain portions of our facilities that are in need of repair and/or do not match the way students are learning. In particular, we are focusing our facility study on career and technical programs – agriculture, industrial tech, family and consumer science, and business – as well as our music education facilities. Other spaces under study are an early childhood center, a secure centralized entrance, additional parking, transportation and maintenance facilities, and additional classrooms.
Whatever the future holds, the Alburnett district is strong and well positioned. We have strong board leadership, are financially solid, employ a quality staff, and celebrate a supportive community. Together we are…Purple on Purpose.