Tax levy increasing, mill rate constant for Ashwaubenon schools
By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – The mill rate backed by the school board Oct. 28 won’t be going up after voters approved two referendums this spring.
Though the tax levy is increasing by nearly $400,000 to $16,643,395, Business Director Keith Lucius said the mill rate will remain at the previously year’s level of $7.81 per $1,000 of equalized property value.
He said the district’s overall equalized property value increased 2.37 percent to more than $2.13 billion, thereby offsetting the increase in the levy to allow the mill rate to stay the same.
On April 7, district voters approved an operational referendum to exceed the district’s revenue limit by $730,000 annually for five years, starting with the 2020-21 school year and ending in 2024-25, and a capital referendum for issuing up to $10.05 million in general obligation bonds to pay for a districtwide facility improvement program.
Prior to both referendum questions passing, Lucius said the district estimated the mill rate could increase this school year by a dime for the capital referendum and another 55 cents for the operational question.
“To be able to pass two referendum questions, a capital one and an operational one, and keep our mill rate the same is pretty outstanding,” he said. “I think it’s something that our taxpayers will appreciate the fact that we told them their taxes were going to go up, and we’re really holding the line on where their taxes are.”
However, Lucius said having the mill rate remain constant doesn’t mean an individual’s property taxes can’t go up.
“These are equalized mill rates,” he said. “I always use equalized mill rates, because they provide the best way to compare tax burden from district to district… That increase in property values could affect some more than others. (Keeping the mill rate constant) doesn’t mean everyone’s taxes are going to stay the same.”
Lucius said property taxes for school purposes could also go up in the event the state reduces the school levy tax credit.
“That’s another variable that can make it look like school taxes are doing something different than what I’m saying here,” he said.
The bulk of the increase in the district’s tax levy is for paying debt service, which is increasing by almost $660,000 to $1,275,000.
The community service levy is increasing by $43,000 to $675,000 for programs that are not primarily for elementary and secondary education, but have the primary function of serving the community, such as at the Ashwaubenon Community Pool and Performing Arts Center.
Most of the overall tax levy goes to the general fund, for which the levy is decreasing by more than $300,000 to $14,693,395.
General fund budget
The board also adopted a general fund budget for 2020-21 of $35,974,838, which is about $2 million more than in last year’s budget.
Lucius said the district’s revenue limit ended up being higher than what he presented at the annual meeting in July.
“(Director of Pupil Services) Tammy Nicholson and I worked really hard on what’s called transfer service, which are students when they move in, if they have higher needs or special needs, we’re able to get some additional revenue limit room,” he said. “That boosted our revenue limit, but it also boosted our expenditures, because some additional positions we needed to add along with that.”
Lucius said additional revenue the district is receiving includes nearly $200,000 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act grant funding.
The biggest revenue jump listed in the 2020-21 budget is state equalization aid increasing by about $1.7 million to more than $8.4 million.
Lucius said the district’s paying off of previous referendum debt a year early negatively affected the amount of equalization aid received for 2019-20.
“The plan was that our aid would be down last year,” he said. “We didn’t have the debt service levy, so we could offset that by doing that and timing the referendum, so that our mill rate wasn’t bouncing around and trying to be consistent.”
In addition to the tax levy of nearly $14.7 million, general fund revenues in the 2020-21 budget also include $1,639,078 in per pupil state aid, other state aid of $374,036 and open enrollment tuition of more than $9.5 million.
Because of summer school being virtual this year, Lucius said student numbers were down significantly, and consequently, the district’s per pupil state aid decreased slightly, down about $12,000 from 2019-20.
“Open enrollment tuition is up a little bit from what I had projected as well, which is another factor in there of $100,000 more than what I had projected (for 2020-21),” he said.