October 15 is the date for which school districts across Wisconsin wait in hopeful anticipation. This is the day that both official state aid numbers are released and equalized property values are finalized. This year, the legislature has stepped in to change the expected numbers by increasing school aid. The state has released final aid numbers, voting on a "tax relief" plan at the eleventh hour yesterday, October 15. Click on the link below for more information. To summarize, the legislature has established 100 million dollars in state aid for schools over the next two years specifically to reduce local property tax levels. It does not increase the revenue cap, so whatever extra comes in as state aid must be subtracted from the local tax contribution. Considering our ever increasing debt service bill, this is a welcome sight. ECSD will realize an increase of $69,652 as opposed to the expected decrease of about the same based on under-spending the budget last year by about $340,000. This $140,000 swing is certainly appreciated.
They were supposed to finalize the equalized property values as well. According to a September report (https://ww2.revenue.wi.gov/EqValue2/application), overall Rock county property value has decreased by 3 percent this year while Evansville's has inexplicably increased by 1%. There was some mystery $3 million dollar increase in commercial improvements that I don't recall, but then again, I spent a month in the hospital and might have missed it. While the municipality of Evansville comprises about 47% of the district, those in the 5-10% category such as Center, Union and Magnolia have seen modest increases in equalized property values as well. The estimated change in property value put into the budget for the annual meeting this year was about +0.15%. This seems low compared to the September estimates, but I cannot find the specific October 15 data. If the equalized property values do increase by more than that, the estimated mill rate will decrease, since that is based on the property value. Mill rate is defined as total levy needed to support the budget divided by total district equalized property value in thousands of dollars. If the denominator increases the mill rate will decrease compared to current estimate. This combined with the increase in state aid to the district may well bring our mill rate lower than last year's for the first time in five years. Holy moly! It's a miracle! But until the governor releases his stranglehold on the revenue cap, that extra aid won't buy you any books or anything remotely associated with learning. Let the Rube Goldberg school of education commence!