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Ashwaubenon school levy projected to increase less than 1 percent

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

ASHWAUBENON – A proposed tax levy of $16,404,550 was approved Wednesday, July 8, when the Ashwaubenon School District held its annual meeting in the high school cafeteria.

Business Director Keith Lucius said the overall proposed levy, which would be .91 percent higher than the previous year, includes $14,623,300 for the general fund, $1,139,250 to pay off referendum debt and another $642,000 for the community service fund.

He said the general fund levy is dropping by almost $400,000 with the district projecting to receive more state aid for 2020-21.

Lucius said the referendum debt levy is being used to help pay off the $10.05 million capital referendum district voters approved in April to make facility improvements.

He said the community service fund, which pays for programs that are not elementary and secondary educational in nature and have the primary function of serving the community, such as sharing costs with the village to fund two police liaison officers and the Performing Arts Center, includes a levy increase of $10,000.

Lucius said the district’s tax levy had been decreasing the past five years leading up to approval this spring of capital and operational referendums.

“Now we’re adding some debt back on.” He said. “What I anticipate going forward, if I look five years out, our levy will be fairly stable. So the downward trend, I think, ends and we level off, unless something changes as far as the state factor. But as far as local factors, our levy should be stabilizing about this amount, and our mill rate should be stable about this amount, unless property values change.”

Lucius said the district’s projected mill rate for 2020-21 is $7.88 per $1,000 of equalized property value, an increase of 7 cents per $1,000.

“If you own a $100,000 house, (the property tax for school purposes is) $788,” he said.

Lucius said a change in property value in Ashwaubenon would affect the mill rate, because there would be more or less property value to spread over the tax levy.

“If our property values increase even 1 percent, we’ll see the mill rate go down for this coming year, versus what was paid last year…,” he said. “If property values would go down with the economy slowing down… we could see our mill rate go up.”

Lucius said he is projecting no increase in the district’s property value.

He said the district’s mill rate has dropped below the state average the past five years with Ashwaubenon having the lowest mill rate among school districts in Brown County for 2019-20 at $7.81 per $1,000.

Preliminary budget

Lucius also provided an overview of the district’s preliminary 2020-21 budget, which he said projects general fund revenues of around $35,392,026, an increase of about $1.44 million from the previous year.

Though the proposed general fund budget is 4.25 percent higher, he said it would only be up 2.1 percent without the operational referendum voters approved in April to override the revenue limit by $730,000 annually for the next five school years.

Lucius said the district’s revenue limit accounts for about 70 percent of the general fund budget, with another 28 percent coming from open enrollment revenue.

“Other than the revenue limit and open enrollment, those two student factors, 2 percent of our budget is other items,” he said.

Lucius said open enrollment, which in recent years has accounted for about a third of Ashwaubenon’s 3,000-plus students, doesn’t affect property taxes for village residents.

“Village residents do not pay anything for open enrollment students,” he said.

Barring any cuts being made to the current biennial state budget, Lucius said the revenue limit per resident student will be increasing by $179 for 2020-21.

“There’s uncertainty at the state level with what’s happening in the economy, whether (state lawmakers and the governor) will have to do something,” he said. “We just need to be aware of that and have plans in place. That’s why we haven’t locked in our pay increases and some of those other things (for 2020-21).”

In addition to the number of resident students, Lucius said the revenue limit will also be affected by the operational referendum voters approved in April to override the limit by $730,000 a year.

Lucius said the amount of state aid the district receives will affect the property tax levy.

“If state aid goes up, the levy goes down,” he said. “If state aid goes down, the levy goes up.”

When including all funds combined totaling more than $43 million for 2020-21, Lucius said that is increasing 10.65 percent ($4.15 million) with the district’s debt service increasing by $350,000 and capital projects increasing $2.2 million attributable to referendum projects.

Lucius said financial figures presented at the annual meeting are based on estimates and projections and subject to change.

He said the Ashwaubenon school board will finalize the 2020-21 budget and tax levy at its October meeting when it has final figures for enrollment and equalized value.

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