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Chancellor of the Eastern Iowa Community Colleges Don Doucette makes comments at the June 7 ribbon cutting at the Scott Community College urban campus in Davenport. 

The Eastern Iowa Community Colleges (EICC) Board of Trustees on Monday approved a budget estimate and a lower property tax rate for its 2020 fiscal year.

The property tax levy for fiscal year 2019 was $1.03 per $1,000 assessed valuation. It will be lowered to 99 cents for 2020.

“We get to levy on certain prescribed expenditures. In a couple of those categories, early retirement and interest on bonds, we reduced our expenditures,” said Chancellor Don Doucette.

Iowa law requires community colleges to adopt a budget estimate by March 15 of the preceding fiscal year, said Doucette. Monday’s board meeting was held a week earlier than usual so the board could meet the budget deadline.

The budget estimate sets a maximum limit on EICC's total expenditures in all funds and sets the rate for the property tax levy for the 2020 fiscal year, he said.

EICC sets its budget 15 to 20 percent higher than what the district will use, Doucette said, to set a cap on what it can spend. The total of all funds for the 2020 estimate is $99.1 million, compared to the budget estimate of $97.8 million in 2019.

Actual expenditures will come at around $72 or $73 million, he said.

“The budget estimate is always substantially higher than we actually will build an operation budget on,” he said before the meeting. “We have to leave room for unexpected changes,” which might include enrollment increase and how much the district will receive in grants.

Gov. Kim Reynolds has proposed a $4.7 million increase in the state budget for all 15 community colleges in Iowa.

“Right now we don’t know what the state appropriation will be,” Doucette said, adding he is “very optimistic.”

“We have yet to conclude negotiations with faculty but anticipate a raise for personnel,” Doucette said before the meeting. “Also, when we build new programs, we sometimes add new faculty, and that’s possible as well."

Several variables will determine actual expenditures: “We haven’t yet ended up with a contract with our faculty, haven’t yet got appropriation from the state, haven’t yet realized what enrollments or tuition will be," Doucette said. Additionally, EICC has applied for several million in grants, he said.

“A lot of this is simply taking what we know we are going to spend, in the $70-plus million range, and anticipate optimistically.”

“We’re a really financially prudent institution,” Doucette said. “We focus on the long-term financial health of the institution. “

The next regular board meeting will be 7 p.m. April 15 at Clinton Community College, 1000 Lincoln Blvd., Clinton.

Eastern Iowa Community Colleges includes Muscatine, Clinton and Scott community colleges. The district covers all of Clinton, Jackson, Muscatine and Scott counties, as well as parts of Cedar and Louisa counties.

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Film critic/reporter since 1985 at Quad-City Times. Society of Professional Journalists, Broadcast Film Critics Association and Alliance of Women Film Journalists member. Member of St. Mark Lutheran Church.