By Heather Graves
SUAMICO – The Howard-Suamico School Board unanimously approved the 2021-22 preliminary budget at its Sept. 13 meeting.
“My annual commentary on the budget introduction is that the budget is a dynamic document, right?” Superintendent Damian LaCroix said. “And it is a planning document where we try to demystify what the budget is. So my definition is it is a dynamic document in which we try to replicate revenues and expenditures in pursuit of district goals and strategies, and it will change by tomorrow. It is going to change between now and the end of September when we have the annual meeting. It will change again between now and the time we come to you with a recommendation of a budget and a tax levy at the end of October. So, a lot of time, a lot of energy, a lot of planning on part of the leadership team to reflect the values of the community and the policies of the district.”
The estimated budget of $180,906,619 is an increase of 47.66%, or $86,221,055 from the 2020-21 budget.
Mike Juech, assistant superintendent of operations, said the significant increase is due to the facilities referendum debt issuance.
“There is a pretty significant increase there,” he said. “Well folks, we are paying for a $95 million project, so obviously those costs are going to be reflected in a budget.”
The proposed budget includes a tax levy increase to $31,727,318, up from $30,375,445 in 2020-21, an increase of $1,351,873.
It also calls for a tax rate reduction from $9.19 to $8.99 per $1,000 of property home value, which Juech said reflects actions taken by the board as part of the successful referendum.
“I know this is always a confusing topic for folks when it gets to the tax bill time, and we have some ideas on how to best explain that as well,” he said. “But budget-reflecting what you all promised the taxpayers with the referendum project, so obviously, we are meeting that expectation.”
Juech said equalized valuation is projected to increase by 6.34% to $3,529,179,904 up from $3,305,270,705 in 2020-21.
Because the property value in the district continues to climb, district residents could still see a higher tax bill if their property value rises, despite the drop in tax rate.
The actual valuation will be certified by the Department of Revenue in October.
Juech said the 2020-21 budget reflects the most recent state biennial budget, as well as responds to the local pandemic challenges.
With that in mind, he said the district will rely on Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding until 2024 to support ongoing pandemic-related costs.
“Specifically for personnel… What we are doing is creating some support positions – math interventionists, online teachers, student advocates and an alt-ed teacher – so those were positions that we outlined and planned with those ESSER III dollars,” he said.
Juech said other uses for ESSER III funds include:
• Mental health programming and partnership.
• Staffing the COVID-19 hotline.
• Maintaining summer school transportation.
• Addressing learning loss.
• Maintaining increased cleaning services.
• Personal protective equipment purchases.
• Investing in technology.
A more detailed presentation on the 2021-22 budget will take place at the board’s annual budget meeting Monday, Sept. 27.
The board is set to approve the final budget Oct. 25.