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Muscatine Community School Districts proposed budget for FY 2018-19 is headed to hearing. And Tom Anderson, the director of finance and budget for the district, said he has a positive outlook on the district's shape. 

"It's a little easier this year because we were looking at reducing our expenditures by $500,000," Anderson said. "To you and I, that's a lot. But when you are talking about a $70 million overall budget that is not a whole lot." 

He explained that the district's early retirement program has been a boon for adjusting staff (both instructional and support) to the decreasing enrollment numbers.

The program offers certain teachers who have developed seniority in the district to retire early. This takes those premium salaries off the school and allows the district to either hire a new teacher at a lower salary or not replace them at all.

"I think over the last several years, we've come a long way in continually monitoring our expenses based on declining enrollment," Anderson said.

"That amount of money that is given to us on the state level — while I am, very grateful for it — those individuals are also trying to balance a massive budget as well," said Tammi Drawbaugh, president of the board of education. "We will always say we could use more."

The State Supplemental Aid  was set at 1 percent in February. Drawbaugh said she remembers when State Supplemental Aid was as high as 6 and 10 percent. 

"That's just not happening now," Drawbaugh said. "I'm sure our spending was very different back then. When you have more money, it's easy to spend and when you have less money to spend you are quick to prioritize."

She said that the capital improvement projects in the budget are the most important features going forward. She said these building might prove to help as the district strategize about how to best keep itself in the black. 

"I think the capital projects are important because that's the building piece," Drawbaugh said. "Consolidating Washington Schools was good example of this. It's never fun to say, 'We need to reduce our schools.' But when we do that, that's a place for us to save money eventually."

Like Anderson, Drawbaugh said that the district has to be diligent in planning documents like the budget. She said that incremental austerities like the $500,000 make district improvements possible.

"Right now, we are also trying to think about what those plans look like," Drawbaugh said. 

The public hearing over Muscatine CSD's Budget for FY 2018-19 will take place at 7 p.m. April 9, 2018, at the City Hall Council Chambers, 215 Sycamore St.