MUSCODA - The Riverdale School District has worked hard to manage limited financial resources in recent years, trimming expenses where possible while continuing to provide quality educational programming for all students.
Now its efforts have been recognized by Moody’s Investors Services, which has upgraded the District’s bond rating from A1 to Aa3.
“The upgrade in bond rating is good news for district taxpayers,” said Superintendent Jonathan Schmidt. “It means that Moody’s has recognized our healthy financial position and low level of debt and also signifies that the district would likely receive a low interest rate on future borrowing, saving taxpayers money over time.”
The news comes as Riverdale prepares to ask voters to approve an operating referendum on April 6 that would allow the district to exceed its state-set revenue caps.
If approved, the district would be allowed to exceed its caps by $700,000 per year for five years starting in 2021-22, then by $315,000 for each of the next 14 years. The referendum would be effective until the 2040-41 school year.
For the first five years, the district would use $385,000 of the $700,000 to cover projected budget shortfalls in order to balance the budget, avoid staff layoffs, maintain current programming and services for students and reduce class size in grades 7-9. The remainder of the money would be used to pay off existing debt.
For the last 14 years of the referendum, $315,000 annually would be used to pay for debt incurred for proposed building and maintenance projects at the middle/high school building that would continue the District’s efforts to modernize its programming, including:
• Adding classrooms to create an agricultural learning center;
• Providing classrooms and office space for teachers that currently do not have their own classrooms or office space;
• Providing ventilation to the industrial shop area;
• Reconfiguring the high school to create more of a junior high “wing” for grades 7-8;
• Creating library space for the junior high school program;
• Repairing, renovating and adding bathrooms;
• Creating a secure front entrance;
• Completing site work necessary for the addition and remodeling.
“The district has been careful to prioritize its building needs and is asking only for what is needed to sustain and modernize programming for students. With enrollment expected to increase slightly, we are anticipating that we will no longer have budget shortfalls after the first five years so we reduced the amount of revenue we needed,” Schmidt explained.
Declining enrollment and cuts in state funding since 2000 led to significant budget shortfalls for the District. Under the state funding formula, enrollment is a key factor in determining how much money a district is able to receive in state aid and local property taxes.
After significant cuts to programs and staff, district voters approved an operating referendum in 2017. That plan allowed the district to exceed its revenue caps by $600,000 per year for five years.
The additional funds allowed the District to minimize budget reductions and maintain programs and services. For instance Riverdale was able to reduce the number of staff who traveled between buildings from 14 to 1, increasing staff time with students. The additional funds also allowed the district to improve student outcomes and replace some of its aging school buses.
If the April referendum is passed by the voters, it will allow the District to continue its work on improving and maintaining programs and services without a gap since the 2017 referendum expires at the end of this year, Schmidt said.
The district’s good fiscal management has allowed it to keep the tax rate low. For the past two years, the rate has decreased. If the April referendum is approved, it would add $27 per year to each $100,000 of equalized property starting in 2022 but then drop to $18 per each $100,000 of equalized value in 2023.For more information, visit the district website or contact Jonathan Schmidt at (608) 739-3832 or by email.