School taxpayers likely to see hefty increase

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BELOIT - The School District of Beloit expects to spend a million dollars less in its 2017-2018 budget, but property-tax payers nevertheless can expect a hefty increase in their bills.

Last year the district budgeted almost $4 million more than it spent, largely because of reduced healthcare expenses. With the state reimbursing the district at 80 percent, the board voted to make up the difference by increasing the tax levy to the maximum allowable rate rather than taking money from its fund balance. The fund balance had been below policy requirements over the past few years and to protect the district's credit rating the board voted 5-2 to increase the new tax levy to the maximum allowable rate.

"The tax levy this year reflects an increase due to the shell game the state of Wisconsin has implemented among all districts in Wisconsin," Executive Director of Business Services Jamie Merath said. "When the district is fiscally responsible and does not spend the entire budget, the following year the district receives less state aid."

Merath discussed the budget at Tuesday's board meeting. At a budget hearing to be held on Oct. 24, at Kolak Education Center, 1633 Keeler Ave., the board is expected to adopt the levy.

The information given at Tuesday's meeting is preliminary because all state certified data will not be available until after Oct. 13, and figures may change.

The board voted to authorize administration to levy to the full revenue limit available. Board members Dennis Baskin, Wendy Sanchez, Kris Klobucar, Lisa Anderson-Levy and Laurie Endres voted in favor of levying the maximum, and board members Pam Charles and Shelly Cronin voted against it.

Under the proposed budget taxpayers with a home valued at $100,000 could see a $269 tax increase in the district's portion of the tax bill. The proposed mill rate of $12.42 is up from last year's $9.73 per $1,000 valuation.

Under the estimated budget, a homeowner with a $100,000 house could pay $1,242 in property taxes for school purposes per year, up from the previous year's $973.

The estimated school property tax levy for 2017-2018 is $12,715,052, up from $8,716,833 for 2016-2017.

The tax levy in 2016-2017 had decreased $183 for a home with as assessed value of $100,000, largely due to the revenue limit energy exemption projects costing less than the prior year.

The current proposed operations budget in 2017-18 is $100,125,655 and the projected revenue for 2017-2018 is $100,125,655.

The proposed expenditure budget for 2017-2018 is $85,448,710 for general operating costs; $14,676,945 for special projects; $5,440,519 for debt service; $5,012,779 for food service; $74,718 for cooperative programs, for a combined expenditure total of $110,653,671 in estimated costs, minus $9,423,176 in interfund transfers for a total of $101,230,495.

The $1,805,009 of cost reductions for the proposed 2017-2018 budget are as follows: implementing print management, $125,952; eliminating a mechanical contract, $63,568; aligning employee groups pay, $23,210; eliminating leadership for administrative mentorship, $89,954; eliminating a marketing contract, $44,000; closing the employee wellness clinic, $274,587; administrative department budget reductions of $525,853; and Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) benefit savings, $657,885.

New costs of $2,170,712 are as follows: salary increases at the consumer price index of 1.26 percent, $671,575; five mental health service positions at the intermediate and elementary, $499,460; school age parent coordinator, $37,481; increase in professional development contract days, $398,918; fifth grade dual language immersion teacher, $82,278; UW Whitewater partnership for dual language immersion programming, $5,000; increase of a special education teacher, $85,000; increase of eight special educator paraeducators, $336,000; and increase in one secretary, $55,000.

Baskin said the district needs be cautious when it comes to increasing taxes, but must adhere to its fiduciary responsibility.

"This is a difficult decision and shouldn't be about politics, but should keep the district on path to sustainability in the future," Baskin said.

"I feel like we've done a great job in recent years of improving our facilities and keeping them updated and in good repair," said board member Pam Charles. "While I love to see as much money as possible come into our district, I know there is only so much with a town of our demographics can bear. The majority of students in our district come from homes where their parents can't afford to feed them. We have to be careful when we make decisions like this and think of everyone, not just those that can afford a tax boost like this."

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