When Des Moines Public Schools was preparing its budget last Spring, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was just starting to be felt. Little did anyone know then that this global crisis would continue for more than a year. From the sickness and death caused by the virus, to the impact it has had on the economy, to changes in so many parts of daily life – including education – this past year has been unlike anything any of us have ever experienced.

Things are beginning to look hopeful, however. The number of COVID-19 cases are trending downward, and people are being vaccinated across the country. The district, through its community partnerships, was able to host multiple vaccination events for DMPS staff, bringing us one step closer to a life post-pandemic. At DMPS, nearly two-thirds of students are back in the classroom, and the rest have chosen to learn online. Slowly but surely, life is beginning to return to normal.

At the same time, we need to continue to be cautious. That is why Des Moines Public Schools will again hold our budget forum online as we complete the FY 2022 budget. This process is transparent, by making the information and engagement easily accessible, and it is safe, by not having in-person gatherings. In fact, last year more people viewed our online budget presentation than attended a decade’s worth of in-person budget forums.

The financial services staff at DMPS is pleased to share the following information about the proposed FY 2022 budget and opportunities for you to share comments and questions:

  • A video discussion by Superintendent Tom Ahart and Chief Financial Officer Shashank Aurora about the proposed budget, highlighting some of the key issues and challenges heading towards FY 2022;
  • A copy of both the preliminary budget as well as the PowerPoint slides from the video presentation;
  • A link to an online form in order to submit questions about the budget; all questions will be answered as well as shared on this web page.

We will take questions about the budget through Monday, April 5. On Tuesday, April 6 the Des Moines School Board will hold a public hearing and vote on the budget (details on their meeting will be posted soon).

If you would like more details on the proposed budget, download the following documents:

Budget form iconHave a question or comment about the proposed budget? Click here to submit online.

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS ABOUT THE PROPOSED FY 2022 BUDGET

Thank you to everyone who submitted a question or feedback regarding the FY 2022 budget for Des Moines Public Schools. The involvement of an informed citizenry is vital and taking the time to get involved is greatly appreciated.

The questions and comments received will inform future decisions. In cases where multiple questions were submitted on the same topic, those have been condensed and summarized below.

The district has previously only had a premium for dental insurance for administrators and trades employees. Why is the district implementing a premium for dental insurance for everyone?
As DMPS faces significant budget constraints, every expense must be carefully considered. We have heard from our employees that they value the benefits package offered by the school district. We have also heard from employees that it is important to stay competitive with neighboring districts from a salary perspective. Much consideration was given to charging premiums for dental insurance, and the district looked at salary and benefits holistically. The introduction of premiums for family dental allowed for an increase to salaries, while at the same time maintained the comprehensive health insurance benefits. Single dental remains available to full-time staff as a fully-District paid benefit. This Spring the district will again be working closely to evaluate pay and benefits with employee groups (e.g., DMEA and AFSCME) to make recommendations for consideration.

With the ending of School Resource Officers (SROs), what is the plan moving forward to address safety concerns?
DMPS appreciates and respects that there are differences of opinion regarding the SRO program. A comprehensive plan has been developed by the district in regard to replacing the SRO plan and may be downloaded here.  In addition, over the years DMPS has made numerous improvements to the security of our school buildings.

Why doesn’t the district use the money allocated for new facilities (e.g., buildings, stadiums, etc.) to offset the budget reduction?
School districts in Iowa operate with restricted funds. Most funds used for new facilities, along with repairs and renovations for existing buildings, typically come from the SAVE sales tax revenue or from the PPEL or PERL tax levies. Those funds, under state law, have restrictions that prohibit their use for general education purposes.

Regarding “On-time Funding” – If I’m understanding correctly, this funding will help address the enrollment loss due to Covid–approximately 1,000 students in DMPS or about $7M in funding. And these funds are not new funds provided by the State, but are obtained by basically giving the District permission to dip into its “savings,” to use money it already has in the bank, but normally wouldn’t be able to spend. Is that correct?
The “on-time funding” function gives the district the spending authority, but not the cash, to pay for these students to be educated. The funds come from the district’s “savings” as they would not have been in the official enrollment count from October 2021. This is one of the reasons why the district has been working on improving the solvency ratio.

Slide18 says 20 FTE positions will be eliminated as part of the District’s reduction strategy. What are those positions? Are they teachers?
Reductions are across all areas of the district: From Central Office Staff: 13 FTE (1 HR, 4 Custodial, 1 Security, 7 Student & Family Services). From Programs: 2.4 FTE (IB), 3.0 FTE Turnaround Arts. Through the allocation process, staff positions are allocated to schools based on enrollment of students. As there were approximately 1,000 fewer students enrolled in the district on the October 2021 count, the following school-based positions will be eliminated: 13.0 FTE elementary school, 5.0 FTE middle school, 2.0 FTE high school.

Slide 18 also says $400k will be cut in IB expenses, can you provide more details about what those expenses are? If my child attends an IB school, how will this impact their learning experience?
The reductions in the IB program are for staff professional development. For the past several years, these funds have been budgeted and unspent. Therefore, this budget amount has been reduced. In addition, due to low enrollment, the IB Diploma Programme at Hoover will be eliminated. The IB programs at the other schools will remain, and the day-to-day student experience will not be impacted by the reductions.

I don’t think it was explicitly stated in the presentation, but if I inferred correctly, the Budget Guarantee (when looking at the Tax Components on slide 27) is included in the PPEL funds. Is that correct?
The budget guarantee impacts the General Fund only. PPEL is funded through a different levy and is not impacted by enrollment.

The statement we, the public, heard during legislative debates this session, was that if the legislature didn’t pass a SSA high enough to avoid triggering a budget guarantee, our property taxes would go up. I’m still confused whether or not this will actually happen. It looks like the FY22 tax rate could have gone up, if the District hadn’t decided to eliminate the Cash Reserve levy for FY22. Is that correct? And the downside to taking out the Cash Reserve levy and the reason why it isn’t a permanent strategy, is because that means, in doing so, we’re not building up our savings. Is that correct?
The district will utilize a budget guarantee for FY 2022, which equated to an increase of $0.45717 to the General Fund regular levy. If the Cash Reserve levy had been levied, property taxes would have most likely increased.

What positions will be lost due to the drop in enrollment?
Through the allocation process, staff positions are allocated to schools based on enrollment of students. As there were approximately 1,000 fewer students enrolled in the district on the October 2020 count, the following school-based positions will be eliminated: 13.0 FTE elementary school, 5.0 FTE middle school, 2.0 FTE high school. As indicated in the breakdown, the largest decrease in enrollment was at the elementary level.

Is there a plan to reach 100% implementation of the K-8 ELA curriculum and if so, when will that occur?
Over the course of the 2020-21 school year, the district is working toward the full implementation of the ELA curriculum in grades K-8. Based on implementation data, as of March 1, 97% of elementary schools are implementing the EL Curriculum as intended.

What does asset-based equitable support mean?
An asset-based approach to education is key in achieving equity in classrooms. With an asset-based approach, every community is valuable; every community has strengths and potential. In the simplest terms, an asset-based approach focuses on strengths. It views diversity in thought, culture, and traits as positive assets. It seeks to eliminate deficit thinking and harmful biases that hold back students, especially those with disabilities, English language learners and emergent bilinguals, and students of color.

What does “integrated services” mean and how will the SEL pilot schools be selected?
Integrated services is as a systematic approach to student supports, (MTSS) where highly qualified school practitioners, with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, provided services across all tiers of instruction are: to date, 13 elementary schools, two middle schools, and one high school have begun implementation of integrated services. The selection of the pilot schools has yet to be determined. The district is working through the criteria with the large district task force.

Why is the district implementing SEL in elementary first, rather than focus programming in the high schools?
There are multiple reasons why implementation of social and emotional learning (SEL) is beginning with elementary. First, the district is better staffed and more prepared to have implementation success at the early grades (Pre-k-5). In addition, SEL within high-schools is very site-based and dependent on the needs of each school community. The research and success of SEL in 9-12 is more difficult to define and needs to be localized. High Schools will be starting on phase 1 of SEL: systems and staff.

What does unspent authorized budget refer to, and why is it a goal to maintain or build the district’s unspent authorized budget?
Iowa uses a school finance formula that sets the maximum amount a district is authorized to spend and certify on a budget for a fiscal year, referred to as its maximum budget authority, or spending authority. A district’s spending authority is the sum of the district’s authorized budget for the current year (combined cost and miscellaneous income) plus the unspent authorized budget from the previous year. Under the spending authority control, it is illegal for a school district to exceed its maximum authorized budget.

Can you explain the spending authority ratio and solvency ratio?
The unspent spending authority ratio is a measure of the district’s unbudgeted authorized spending capacity (not cash reserves) and is defined as the district’s unspent spending authority divided by the district’s maximum budget authority. The district’s solvency ratio is a moment-in-time (June 30) measurement of the district’s General Fund financial health. The solvency ratio is measure of the district’s fund equity position and is defined as the unreserved, undesignated fund balance (commonly referred to as the cash reserves) divided by the district’s total General Fund revenues, less AEA flow-through.

There was a lot of talk that property taxes were going to need to be raised as a result of the loss in enrollment/budget guarantee etc. Did property taxes increase?
The district will utilize a budget guarantee for FY 2022, which equated to an increase of $0.45717 to the General Fund regular levy. If the Cash Reserve levy had been levied, property taxes would have most likely increased.