"High Achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation." - Charles Kettering

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Estimated State Aid for Evansville Schools Increases a Whopping $65,184 Next Year

I saw the article in the Wisconsin State Journal regarding the state aid estimate decrease for Madison Schools (http://www.jsonline.com/news/education/state-aid-to-drop-in-more-than-half-of-wisconsin-school-districts-b9945589z1-213909491.html). My mind immediately went to "and what about Evansville?" I searched for Evansville's info which I found in the link below. This link is also featured with the State Journal article. The list is arranged in order from largest loss in aid to largest increase in aid, so it's pretty hard to find a specific district. It's always a good place to start when discussing school budgets.

Evansville stands to gain about $65K in state aid next year, but this figure is meaningless out of context. Until we know what will happen with the revenue cap, this tells us nothing to aid in establishing a budget for the district. If Scotty doesn't increase the revenue cap as he intimated he would when dickering for school vouchers earlier this spring, the increase in state aid will simply mean an equivalent decrease in local contribution, or property taxes supporting public schools. This would probably make the property owners of Evansville gleeful, until they find out their kid is in an overcrowded classroom with insufficient guidance. If the revenue cap is increased by the alleged $150 per kid, Evansville stands to be able to spend an additional $270,000 or thereabouts next school year. This breaks down to about four and a half teachers when one includes the benefits package. Each person quantifies school budget increases and decreases in their own personal way. I always think if it in terms of teachers. IT folks might think of how much hardware or software that money would support and Student Services likely thinks of this in terms of how much PT or OT this could provide for the district. If $65K of it is coming from the state, $200K or so will be coming from local contributions. This probably won't endear the district to anybody paying property taxes in the city limits. But when you amortize it over all the property in the district (valued at about $673,000,000 last year), it amounts to about 30 cents per thousand increase in property tax, or about $60 on a $200,000 home.

The problem is that the amount owed on the high school referendum from 2002 escalates every year. Next year, the amount due is $3,012,472, or $157,777 more than last year. These monies are not subject to the revenue cap, so taxes paid to cover district referendum debt is added to the taxes owed under the revenue cap. Again, calculating the additional tax owed using last years approximate property value in the district will add another 23.4 cents per thousand to the tax bill, or about $47 on that theoretical $200,000 home. Now we are staring down a potential increase of 53.4 cents per thousand on top of about $11.81 per thousand mill rate, a 4.5% increase. Is this a reasonable increase? In light of the economy, some would say such increases should reflect the CPI, which is nowhere near 4.5%. Others would say the district has suffered for three years now and needs some make-up funding. Still others would say the district hasn't practiced due diligence in finding economies in all areas and shouldn't be allowed to increase the mill rate more than twice the CPI.

Some of my sources say that business manager Doreen Treuden anticipates a mill rate lower than last year. To be fair, I am unaware of what assumptions she made to come up with that conclusion, but I was told it included an increase of $150 per student in state aid and unknown revenue cap changes. The state aid increase released today is more like $37 per student. This bodes ill for Evansville. I hope to begin attending the meetings again in July, although the change to Wednesdays is going to be a challenge. I'm not sure why they did this, but maybe more board members will be able to attend their kid's concerts, which are almost always on Monday. Stay tuned for budgetary developments!~Melissa


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