School district approves $13.2M tax levy

Tax rate still expected to drop for current school year
Lee Pulaski
City Editor

SHAWANO — The tax levy for the 2019-20 budget year for the Shawano School District will be $13,241,572 after a small group of district residents approved it at Monday’s annual meeting.

The meeting took less than a half hour as district officials unrolled a budget that indicated declining enrollment, an uptick in property values, lower taxes and more funding from the state. With the levy now approved, a final budget will go before the Shawano School Board on Oct. 28.

The district’s budget is increasing by $465,264, about 1.6%, to bring it to about $30 million.

Louise Fischer, the district’s business manager, said that she is expecting to see a 2% increase in property values, which will bring tax rates down to $9.62 per $1,000 of equalized valuation. This will be a 7-cent drop from the current rate of $9.69.

If property values are found to be 3% higher, the tax rate would drop even more to $9.53. The district will get final numbers on Oct. 15.

Fischer reported that she is expecting a decline of 25 students for the current school year, which would bring the total population to 2,305. Because this is the third year in a row that enrollment has dropped, there is concern that the state could come in next year and reduce the amount of money the district can utilize.

“The state controls about 85% of a school district’s revenue,” Fischer said, explaining that there is a cap to how much of a local levy a district can request, along with state equalization aid, which is more than half of the district’s income for 2019-20.

The district is receiving over $15.3 million from the state in equalization aid, according to Fischer. The state budget included a $175 per pupil increase in aid going toward the budget limit, totaling about $192,000, and another $211,000 in categorical aid.

The district has seen increases in aid every year since 2011, when the state’s budget crisis required taking more than $3.5 million in aid from the school district. The projected amount of state aid is right around what the district received prior to 2011, about $15.4 million.

Fischer reported that health care costs for district employees are going up 13%, and dental costs are increasing 3%. About 60% of the district’s total budget is for employee salaries and benefits, she noted.

Fischer said that the district will be paying more for the school voucher programs, which allows students within the public school system to attend private schools. There are three parochial schools within the district’s boundaries, two K-8 schools and a high school, which will maximize the available vouchers this year, she said, noting the cost will be about $728,000.

There is currently about $21.9 million in debt for the district, which officials expect will be paid off in 11 years. There are six more years’ worth of payments for the building of Hillcrest Primary School and the remodeling of Olga Brener Intermediate School, and then there is the debt for renovating Shawano Community Middle School, which will be paid off in 2031.

This would not include the proposed referendum in April 2020 to build a joint recreation center between the district and the city of Shawano.