Howard-Suamico School District approves $89.5 million budget
By Ben Rodgers
SUAMICO – The Howard-Suamico school board approved the 2018-19 budget for more than $89.5 million at its Monday, Oct. 22 meeting.
Matt Spets, assistant superintendent of operations, presented the board with more than numbers. He gave a detailed breakdown of how and why the district got into this current position.
“Our fiscal reality is we can use the creativity of the board, the leadership team, the collective community and those who inspire us to innovate,” Spets said.
With the successful referendum in April, Spets said the district is now presented with that new fiscal reality.
“This year in particular, we’re going to leverage almost $4.7 million of that $5.85 million flexibility we were gifted or granted that we have now,” he said.
That flexibility, coupled with a freeze on open enrollment students, means the district not only has a new revenue source, but capped expenditures moving forward.
“Essentially we’re neutral on the expenditure side as of today and we increased our base revenue,” Spets said. “We’ve literally adjusted our fiscal reality in the last couple of months.”
Along with the budget approval of $89,505,581, the board approved a tax levy of $26,570,826.
With the levy approval the district has locked in a property tax rate of $9.19 per $1,000 for the fourth year in a row.
However, at the same time, land is the district has seen a jump in value. This means while the rate stays the same, people whose property value has increased will be paying more.
In the same four-year time frame, the total Howard-Suamico land valuation jumped from nearly $2.5 billion to roughly $2.9 billion.
With the state’s current education funding formula, this means that the overall district funding now contains less aid from the state and more from the tax levy.
The total decrease in equalization aide is $1,272,798 from 2017-18 to 2018-19.
“Our aid was reduced because our property value went higher than most districts increased…” Spets said. “And then we were blessed to use some tax levy for operational purposes instead of paying down debt only.”
In the last session, the legislature also approved a slight bump in per-pupil categorical aid, but Spets said that it won’t do much in the grand scheme of school finance for the district.
“We know there’s some mechanism already that we can look toward,” he said. “It doesn’t solve problems we might have or cover much more than the cost of inflation.”
In this budget cycle, the district received $1 million in grants. However, they may not be available next year, and they do require extensive work to meet the requirements.
With so many unknowns at the current time with an election around the corner, and school finance being discussed by candidates, Spets presented the board with a high-level, big-picture outline.
“We try to make sure that we’re controlling what we can control, at least when we’re applying the budget year after year, and we can’t just assume that process will fix all of our gaps, because it won’t and it probably never will,” he said.
The outline included a timetable that showed the possibility of another referendum task force meeting sometime in the 2020-21 school year.
The budget and levy were unanimously approved following Spets’ presentation. Board member Jeff Eilers was absent.
“Fiscal responsibility, if I looked it up in the dictionary, your picture would be there, I’m serious,” Trustee Gary Sievert, board member told Spets.