The Pella School Board reviewed students’ results from the Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP) and district finances, showing the district’s students performing above the state average and a healthy financial position.
The ISASP’s were conducted for grades three through 11 in the spring of 2019. Director of K-12 Instruction Lowell Ernst says the test is quite new, with this being the first school year students have taken it instead of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.
Results show students performing above the state average in English language arts, mathematics and science. Last year’s eighth grade students demonstrated they were particularly fluent in mathematics with 27 percent being considered advanced, 65 percent considered proficient and only 9 percent considered not yet proficient.
Seniors have also performed above the state average on ACT scores for the past twelve years, with 2018/2019 seniors receiving a 23.7 average ACT score compared to the state’s average of 21.6.
Board members also reviewed the district’s financial position by looking at six financial indicators, their line-item budget and a financial prediction.
Business manager and board treasurer Mary Bogaard presented the solvency ratio, enrollment trends, staff costs, the balanced spending authority budget, unspent budget authority (UBA) and the UBA ratio.
The solvency ratio, or the district’s fund balance/cash position, is the unassigned general fund balance divided by total revenue. The district’s current solvency ratio is slightly over 17 percent for the 2020/2021 school year, and superintendent Greg Ebeling says he’d like the district to stay under 18 percent.
If the district reaches 20 percent or higher, the state will no longer allow a cash reserve levy. Ebeling says the solvency ratio could grow if the district spends less money than the revenues they receive.
“To me, this means school districts aren’t bringing programs into their system as they should,” said Ebeling. “You can be super, super conservative and never add anything to your district, and if your whole goal is to make your finances look good, that’s great. But, that’s not our main goal. We want to be financially healthy, but we also want to offer programs to our students.”
Enrollment continues to grow, which brings in additional revenue for the district. Bogaard says staff costs are the biggest expense schools have, with most district’s spending between 75 to 85 percent of all costs on personnel. The district is estimated to spend 83.11 percent of their budget for the 2020/2021 school year compared to an estimated 82.96 percent for the 2019/2020 school year.
The district’s 2019/2020 spending authority budget is $26 million, and the district has $5.2 million to spend before they would break even. This number is considered the UBA, which is what the district can spend legally. Bogaard says it is illegal to overspend your UBA. The UBA for the 2020/2021 school year is estimated to decrease to $5,087,459.
Bogaard says she’s feeling good about the district’s finances.
“We’re at a really good place right now, especially with increasing enrollment,” says Bogaard.