Messenger staff writer
Jack Christensen has served as director of financial services for the Fort Dodge Community School District for more than 27 years.
"I started on April Fool's Day, 1985. It was an interesting day when I came to work because there had been a snow storm the day before and I had driven from Meridian to Fort Dodge to start work," he said. "I drove through a snow storm to get to Fort Dodge."
Since starting a quarter of a century ago, Christensen's title has changed.
Town: Fort Dodge
Position: FDCSD?director of fiancial services
How to reach him:?576-1161
"When I first came to the district, it was the secretary-comptroller," he said. "The district had gone to directors for different areas, so they decided they were going to change that to director of financial services, because comptroller is an archaic term that people don't use anymore."
Technology has advanced in the district significantly since he started, Christensen said.
"The computer has changed a lot," he said. "The aid and levy worksheet when I first came was done with pencil and an adding machine. We got a blank form and the budget forms all had to be typed up by someone. Now, of course, it's on an excel spreadsheet."
Christensen has also witnessed reductions in administrative staff over the decades, as well as district enrollment.
"When I came, the enrollment was high 4,000s. Now it's around 3,656," he said. "We've closed some schools since I came. Before I came, in April 1985, they closed Highland Park and Hawley. The board made that decision. Since then, they've closed Badger, Otho and Hillcrest."
In watching its annual budget, the district has done "a good job in proactive over the years," Christensen said.
"We've had to make cuts, partly because the enrollment has decreased and the fluctuation in our allowable growth," he said. "If you get zero allowable growth, which we had for the 2011-12 year, and a reduction in students, that's going to affect you greatly in the following year."
There is a bright side, however, Christensen said.
"We were able to reduce the property taxes about $2 per thousand, from the 11-12 year to the 12-13 year, so school district taxes for the constituents in the district will be less than they were the year before," he said.
There have also been improvements.
"When I came to the district in 1985, our fund balance was minus $671,000," Christensen said. "As of last year, it was $6,242,000 in the general fund, which encompasses most of the expenditures for the educational part of the district's spending."
On June 29, after 27 years, Christensen is retiring from the school district. He said he has enjoyed his position with the school district "immensely," in part because of the people he's worked with.
"Having spend over a quarter of a century at the district, to watch families grow and different life events in families, children, graduating from high school, college, getting married. Even staff members, I've attended weddings for. That's been a delight," he said. "I'm going to miss that."
Christensen said after retiring he will travel with his wife, while remaining involved in the community. He is a member of Noon Sertoma Club, and has served on the Ann Smeltzer Charitable Trust since its inception in March 2000. He plans to continue for another term.
Otherwise, "It is time."
"I can't give you a scientific reason for it, but people can feel when it's time to move on," he said. "It's time for younger blood to come in. There's some changes that will come about. They're not bad changes, they're good changes, things in the way business is done. I'm going to leave that up to my replacement, who's been selected."
Contact Brandon L. Summers at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org