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Category Archives: Superintendent Blog

Enhance Your Knowledge of School Finance

Article 1: General Introduction and “How student enrollment in each district determines district revenues”

Every year public schools in Iowa spend billions of dollars to educate children, sparking taxpayers to often ask school board members, administrators and lawmakers: “Where does that money go?” That’s why part of the Maquoketa Community School District’s mission is to help taxpayers understand how districts are spending that money, in an attempt to dispel the mysteries surrounding school funding.

Knowing how the state school funding formula works is important in helping understand the pressures facing local school districts. While the area of school finance is complex, some basic principles make it understandable to the average citizen, including:

  1. The number of children enrolled in each district determines a district’s budget/revenues.
  2. The General Assembly through the finance formula “equalizes” funding statewide so the “cost per student” is roughly the same in every district and every student has access to a quality education.
  3. The Governor recommends the annual change in per pupil state supplemental aid. The General Assembly is responsible for passing legislation to establish the annual increase in the “cost per student/state supplemental aid”.
  4. Property taxes matter. They determine how much money each district receives in state aid.
  5. Funds are restricted. We can only use funds on what the legislature tells us we can. This is called Dillon’s Rule.
  6. Schools are budget limited. Most other public entities are property tax rate limited. This difference is monumental.

In an effort to explain where those tax dollars are going and why, this article is the first of six that will address each of the principles affecting school funding.

First, Iowa’s school funding formula is a child-based formula, meaning that the allowable spending for a school district is based upon the number of children enrolled in that district on October 1 of each year. The number of students counted on that day is used to establish the district’s budget for the following year. This means our revenues are always a year behind the actual number of children we are serving in our classrooms. For the Maquoketa Community School District, our October 1 enrollment is 1363 for the current year.

Because the formula is based on the number of children enrolled in the district, as we gain children, we gain revenues to serve those children and, if enrollment declines, we also lose revenue.

Two of the last three years the enrollment for our district has increased.  However, declining enrollment has been the case over the past several years. This has created significant budget pressures for our district. The current district cost per child for Maquoketa Community Schools is $6,664 this year.  Any time that we lose children this reduces our district’s revenue by $6,664 multiplied by the number of students lost for next year. (i.e. if we lose 10 students multiply $6,664 times 10 which equals $66,640) If our district’s enrollment actually drops below the prior year our budget could be subject to the minimum growth guarantee (1%). However, our fixed costs, such as for transportation, salary and benefits, technology and facilities, and maintenance continue to rise, despite our best efforts to economize.

Once district revenues are established, how is that money spent? It depends on state lawmakers –and this will be discussed in the next article of this series.

FY 18 Budget

It’s that time of year again.  Time to construct and certify the budget for the school year 2017-18, also known as the Fiscal Year 18 budget.  Please take a few minutes to click on the link below to find out more about Maquoketa’s budget for the upcoming school year.  Then, visit my blog in the near future to learn more about school finance in Iowa.  Thank you for your patronage and let me know if you have questions or concerns.

FY 18 Budget Presentation



Rule #10 Have Fun and Enjoy the Ride

The goal in life is to live young, have fun, and arrive at your final destination as late as possible, with a smile on your face. And you know what the final destination I’m talking about is, right? No one can escape it. We’re all going there. But the important thing is how much we enjoy the ride until we get there. After all, we only have one life and one ride.

Too many people stress over too many meaningless things. Their bus is going through life but they are blind to the beauty around them. Think about it. The day you die you will still have 30-40 emails in your in-box that will not be answered. You will never get it all done so you might as well relax, take a deep breath, and enjoy the ride. Don’t be someone who looks back and says I should have done this or that. Live and work like you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Act like a kid on Christmas morning that is always optimistic and excited about the gifts you are receiving. Don’t be too stressed to feel blessed. Just enjoy your ride….

Rule #9 Drive With Purpose

Purpose is the ultimate fuel for the journey through life. When we drive with purpose we don’t get tired or bored and our engines don’t burn out. Every job on the planet, even that of a professional athlete, teacher, administrator, or movie star can get old and mundane if we let it. Purpose keeps it fresh! When you fuel up with purpose you find the excitement in the mundane, the passion in the every day, and the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Rule #8 Love Your Passengers

Love is the answer for the team’s success. Tap the power of your heart and lead with positive, contagious energy! Letting people share their gifts and strengths is real love. And by loving them and by you helping them find their gold they will shine and so will you!

How to love your passengers

  • Make Time for Them
  • Listen to Them
  • Recognize Them
  • Serve Them
  • Bring Out the Best in Them

(How do you love the passengers on your bus?)

Rule #7 Enthusiasm Attracts More Passengers and Energizes Them During the Ride

Chief Energy Officers live and work with enthusiasm. They tap the power of their heart by getting excited about being alive, by filling up with loads of positive energy, and by being optimistic about life and work. They don’t let fear stop them. No, they charge forward with positive and powerful energy and look at challenges as an opportunity to learn, grow, and succeed. (Do you see challenges as an opportunity to learn, grow, and succeed?)

Rule #6 No Energy Vampires on the Bus

It’s not easy to deal with negativity in the world but it’s something that’s got to be done. Your success and life are so important that you must surround yourself with a positive support team. After all there are people who increase your energy and there are people who drain your energy. I call the people who drain your energy Energy Vampires and they will suck the life out of you and your goals and vision if you let them.

Your job is to do your best to eliminate any negativity on your bus and this includes negative people, no matter who they are. You’ve got to be strong enough to tell people that you will not allow any negativity on your bus!

The Ultimate Rule of Positive Energy

Your positive energy and vision MUST be greater than anyone’s and everyone’s negativity. Your certainty must be greater than everyone’s doubt.

 Sometimes you will have an Energy Vampire on your bus like a boss or someone who you can’t kick off. You got to deal with them. That’s why you got to feed the positive dog and why you got to cultivate it every day! One day is not enough. It’s got to be a HABIT.

Rule #5 Don’t Waste Your Energy on Those Who Won’t Get on the Bus

You will always be surrounded by negative people. It’s not these people so to speak. It’s the negativity that they represent. Negativity not only kills productivity it also kills people.

Step back for a moment. Don’t focus on these people personally. Don’t think of it as you versus them. Just realize they represent the negativity that will always be around you. The important thing is to know how to deal with the negativity and what to do with it. “Don’t waste energy on those who don’t get on your bus” Don’t try to make them get on. You can’t drive anyone else’s bus. You can only drive your bus.

Certainly don’t spend your energy being upset that these people didn’t get on your bus. Don’t take it personal. The more energy you spend worrying about the people who didn’t get on your bus, the less you will have for the people who are on your bus.

Rule #4 Invite People on Your Bus and Share Your Vision for the Road Ahead


“There’s nothing better than feeding the positive dog. Remember, you’re driving the bus,” Joy said. “But as you drive you want to keep asking people to get on. Plus, the more people you pick up on the way the more energy you create during the ride. The goal is to eventually have a standing room only bus with positive energy!”


Rule #3 Fuel Your Ride With Positive Energy

Every day when we look at the gas pump of life we have a choice between positive energy and negative energy. Positive energy is high-octane fuel for the ride of your life while negative energy causes sludge to accumulate in your energy pipeline.

But what do I do with the negativity I have?

You let it go. You release it. You throw it out. You transform it. When the work is piled high on your desk, think about how thankful you are to even have a job while so many are unemployed. When school is driving you crazy, think about the fact that you are healthy enough to work. When you are stuck in traffic, be thankful that you can drive a car while so many have to walk miles just to get clean water.

As I told my father a number of years ago when he lost the love of his life-my mother, ‘You had the kind of love for so many years that many spend a lifetime searching for and never find. Let’s be thankful for that.’

“So you’re saying that I need to keep fueling my life with positive energy if I want to be successful?” George asked.

“I’m not saying it”