Low-interest rates could favor lower West De Pere tax rate
By Ben Rodgers
DE PERE – West De Pere school district residents are likely to see a decrease in the tax rate after the school board approved a pair of resolutions seeking lower interest rates Thursday, May 21.
The decrease could come on the heels of low-interest rates to bond for dollars approved in a pair of 2018 referendums.
Last year, the board approved bonding for $60 million dollars at an interest rate of 2.89 percent, said Michele Wiberg, senior vice president of PMA, the district’s financial advisor.
At its meeting May 21, the board approved a resolution for the second bond for $14.7 million, which Wiberg said could be locked into an rate of 2.98 percent.
She said these rates are lower than the projected 4.25 and 4 percent, respectively, the district estimated for the referendums prior to their passage in 2018.
“The total interest cost is around $10 million lower using pre-referendum estimates,” Wiberg said, “which will result in a lower mill rate impact.”
Although the second rate won’t be locked in until July, she said the initial referendum impact of 55 cents per $1,000 of equalized home value could end up closer to 37 cents.
Wiberg said those 18 cents saved per $1,000 of home value could result in new savings of $18 on a home valued at $100,000, from the initial referendum estimates, not factoring in any increase in home value.
The board also voted to refinance a bond from 2012, which is able to be paid early this October for a savings of $25,000.
Budget unknowns for 2020-21
Business Manager Brian Walters said change will likely come from Madison in regards to the second half of the biennium budget, which would impact next year’s district budget.
Walters said state lawmakers are considering changes to address extra spending this year in regards to the pandemic.
“Education makes up almost 40 percent of the state budget,” he said. “That being said, education is likely going to take some kind of hit.”
Walters called it a “crapshoot” to try and project right now, but he gave the board some numbers.
The first is if nothing changes and the district will receive the additional $179 per student as originally planned.
Walters said that would result in a $1.7 million surplus.
The second is if the additional $179 doesn’t happen and funds remain the same.
Walters said the district budget could see a $1.1 million surplus.
The third is if the state were to reduce per-pupil payments by $100, for which he said the surplus will be down to $800,000.
Walters said growth in the district is an advantage that will allow it to weather any financial storms in the near future.
Once the new intermediate school is completed and staffed for the 2021-22 school year, those surpluses will diminish, but are set to rebound in future years because of projected added enrollment.
“We’re in an excellent financial position, we have a strong fund balance and our finances are in good order,” Walters said.
In other news:
• The board learned about a new scoreboard coming to the football and track stadium at a cost of $60,000, most of which will be covered by donors and advertising. It will consider approval in June.
• West De Pere High School was named best in Brown County by U.S. News and World Report in terms of Advanced Placement program participation rates.
• Bryan Milz, middle school special education teacher and gifted and talented coordinator, was accepted into the New York Times Teaching Project, joining 49 other teachers in 26 states to develop and share effective teaching practices and resources.
• Shelly Raasch, special education aide at Hemlock Creek Elementary School, was selected as an award recipient from the Wisconsin Council of Administrators for Special Services for her work as a special education aide.
• The Class of 2020 will sign a special painted beam to be included in the renovations at the high school.