Tax Levy and Other Fiscal News for N-O-W Constituents
By Kelly T. Burhop – District Administrator
The school district’s financial information in the grid published in last week’s County Line has changed since the announcement of state aid by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. That grid was published with imperfect information to meet statutory guidelines for the annual meeting and budget hearing.
There are several factors that are driving this year’s tax levy. First, during the 2015-16 school year, the NOW School District paid off $416,000 of debt through its general fund. This move saved the District approximately $150,000 in interest payments over the next ten years. It also increased shared costs which are aided at a high level when calculating state aide for 2016-17. Therefore paying off this debt helped increase state aid for this current school year.
Second is the school district’s enrollment. Last year’s student enrollment is used in the calculation of this year’s state aid. Last year the NOW School District still maintained a 713 full-time equivalency student count for state aid purposes. This count is close to the all-time high count the District had in 2014-15. A high student count is another one of the factors that determines the amount of state aid a school district receives.
Finally are the property values of the School District. The property valuation from the spring of 2016 was used to calculate state aid for this year. The District’s October 1 property valuation is used to determine the mill rate. The October 1 property valuation increased close to 9%. The 9% increase in the property valuation along with a decrease in the overall tax levy has led to a significant decrease in the mill rate.
Therefore, everything fell into place this year to increase state aid, decrease total property taxes, and decrease the mill rate. The District’s revenue limit has increased by $104,606. State aid has increased by $218,455. The Fund 10 operational tax levy has decreased by $61,537. The Fund 38 & 39 debt payment levy has decreased by $52,700 due to the early elimination of the District’s Fund 38 debt.
For the 2016-17 school year, the mill rate will be $9.096 per thousand, whereas last year it was set at $10.538 per thousand. During the $5.8 million building referendum in 2010, the information given to the constituency was that a $1.17 per thousand mill rate increase would be needed to fund the project. At that time, the mill rate for the school district was $10.09 per thousand. The mill rate of $9.096 per thousand remains below the targeted mill rate of $11.26 as projected to the tax payers during the 2010 referendum.
Three things that help maintain a high level of state aid and a lower tax levy are low property values, a high student count, and increased shared costs. The District has all three of those things for this levy cycle. For 2017-18, the district’s property values have increased significantly, the 2016-17 student population has decreased by 27 students from last year, and because the District paid off debt last year, the shared costs will decrease automatically. In short, I am projecting a tax levy increase for 2017-18 that will most likely match the tax levy decrease of this current year. I also realize that I make that projection not knowing what the new state 2017-2019 biennial budget will be for public education. The results from the state biennial budget could make the levy situation better or worse.
Changes on your own personal property tax bill will vary depending on your local municipality’s property valuation changes. A balanced budget will be proposed to the constituency at the Annual Meeting and Budget Hearing. If you have any questions about N-O-W School District finances or have any other school-related topics you would like to discuss, contact me here at (608) 337-4403 or attend the Annual Meeting and Budget Hearing at 7 p.m. on Monday, October 24, in the Large Conference Room in the School District Offices.