Cedar Rapids Schools will set aside funds in case of property damage

Governor Kim Reynolds meets on August 14, 2020 with Cedar Rapids Superintendent of Schools Noreen Bush at Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids. The school was severely damaged on Aug. 10 and was closed for repairs until January 2021. The district’s proposed budget for 2023 includes a significant increase to cover increased property insurance costs and higher deductibles. (The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — In its new budget, the Cedar Rapids school district is setting aside more money to cover future storm damage to its buildings, as its insurance company is raising its premiums and setting a much higher deductible for wind damage and hail.

Property insurance premiums have increased in Iowa since August 10, 2020, the right caused billions of dollars in damage in the state and damaged every building in the Cedar Rapids school district.

The district’s property insurance premium increased from $2.1 million this year to an estimated $2.5 million in the new fiscal year, according to David Nicholson, the district’s chief financial officer.

In addition, the district’s property insurer, EMC Insurance, increased the deductible to $75,000 per building for wind or hail damage, it told the school board last month.

“If we would have had that and the right had happened, impacting all of our buildings, it would have been about $2.6 million,” Nicholson said. “This is a big change.”

After entitlement, he said, the district paid only a $10,000 deductible to cover damage to all of its buildings.

David Nicholson, Chief Financial Officer, Cedar Rapids School District

In response to those changes, the district is setting aside an additional $888,000 in the proposed fiscal 2023 budget, enough to cover the higher insurance premium and deductible for wind or hail damage at eight school buildings. There are 31 school buildings in the district.

“Hopefully, we don’t have another right that affects every one of our buildings,” Nicholson said. “We will raise a little more each year to build that balance in case something significant happens.”

Budget

The school board is considering a $317 million budget for fiscal year 2023, which begins July 1 and ends June 30, 2023. That’s a 1 percent increase over this fiscal year’s budget.

A public hearing on the proposed budget is scheduled for Thursday, April 14 at 5 pm at the Educational Leadership and Advocacy Center, 2500 Edgewood Rd. NORTHWEST.

The budget proposes a school property tax rate of $14.71 per $1,000 of property taxable value, a decrease of $15.36 per $1,000 from this year and one of the lowest school property tax levies in eastern Iowa Nicholson said.

For the owner of a $200,000 home, that equates to a decrease of about $132 a year in Cedar Rapids schools’ property taxes.

Inscription

Student enrollment declines continue to affect the district, which had 16,086 students in October, a decrease of 750 students from 2020.

Some students who were previously in the district openly enrolled in the Community College School District or the Marion Home Education Assistance Program, district officials say.

The Iowa Legislature earlier this year approved a 2.5 percent increase in state supplemental aid — the amount of per-pupil funding a school district receives. District officials said the increase is not keeping up with inflation and costs, especially in districts losing enrollment.

New school

The district also has a budget of $2.6 million to begin designing and building an addition to Arthur Elementary, 2630 B Ave. NE. An additional $10 million will be set aside to complete that project.

Once the new school is complete, the Arthur and Garfield elementary school attendance areas will be combined, the Cedar Rapids school board voted last month. Garfield is at 1201 Maplewood Dr. NE.

The money for the construction and payment of the revenue bonds comes from the state’s 1 percent sales tax, called SAVE, or Ensuring Forward Vision for Education, which funds school infrastructure projects.

pandemic funds

District officials plan to spend $14 million in federal funds to continue to address learning loss that occurred when schools closed and students attended remote learning during the pandemic.

The funds were awarded last year from the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Fund approved by Congress at the height of the pandemic.

The district has received $50 million in those federal pandemic funds, which will be spent over four years.

The district spent $17.1 million from the award this year on learning loss, technology and instructional materials; heating, ventilation and air conditioning improvements in schools; mental health support; and school bus attendants.

Comments: (319) 398-8411; grace.king@thegazette.com

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