The decision comes after almost two-and-a-half months of debate and controversy over how the board should absorb a large reduction in state funding for school programs and supplies.
The final budget will include a 30-year half-mill tax hike to cover the recently detected discrepancy with the district’s Public School Employee Retirement Plan [PSERS].
In 1991, the district’s “qualifying” retirement method, PSERS, was termed by federal rules as “no longer qualifying.”
This ruling was not realized by Polk School District officials until this year, and the district is now faced with the expensive task of returning those lost benefits to 168 current maintenance workers, bus drivers and school nutrition employees, and 157 former employees who are still owed benefits.
The increase in millage was not included in the 2003-2004 tentative budget that the board voted to adopt two weeks ago.
The half-mill raise will bring the current millage rate from 13.026 to 13.526, and will allow the school district to pay back their former and past employees’ benefits over a 30-year time period.
The amendment to include the millage rate increase in the final budget was voted in by the board in a unanimous decision.
Sitting well with the board members was the fact that if the district’s financial situation improves in the coming years, a future board could change the 30-year plan into a shorter plan, allowing the district to pay off the debt in a lesser amount of time.
As it stands, the final budget includes cutting back textbook purchases, new computer and software purchases, operational supplies and instructional classroom supplies. All total, the final budget contains $2.3 million in reductions.
Though the budget reflects heavy cuts on operational costs, personnel salaries will stay the same as last year.
The school board will have a series of hearings that will be open to the public for discussion of the budget.
The first hearing will be on Sept. 16 at 7:30 p.m. Another hearing will be held Sept. 23 at 10 a.m., followed by another public session at 7:30 p.m.
At the hearings, residents can ask questions pertaining to the budget, and have them answered by an official from the school district.