Financing $6.1 million school construction initiative contributes to projected 23-cent tax rate increase
Residents in the Cedar Grove-Belgium School District will be asked to set a tax levy of $5.5 million, an increase of $250,000 over the 2009 levy, at the annual meeting Wednesday, Sept. 22.
The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the high school study hall.
If the districtâ€™s equalized valuation increases 2%, the tax rate is expected to be $8.89 per $1,000, an increase of 23 cents or 2.7% more than last year. The districtâ€™s equalized valuation is projected to be $625.4 million.
The district expects to receive $5.8 million in state aids, $330,000 more than last year because enrollment increased last year, Supt. Steve Shaw said.
This yearâ€™s enrollment of 1,134 students is about the same as last year.
The largest expense in the $10.6 million proposed budget is $7.9 million for salaries and benefits, a 7.38% increase. Insurance and other benefits are expected to rise 10%.
The districtâ€™s debt service will be $1.4 million, $130,000 more than last year, which includes the first payments on a $6.1 million building project.
â€śThe numbers will change, but I think theyâ€™re pretty close,â€ť Business Manager Julie Birschbach said.
â€śThe difficult thing is we donâ€™t know what the equalized valuation will be,â€ť Shaw said. â€śLast year, we figured a 5% increase, but this year weâ€™re using 2%.â€ť
To stay within state levy limits, each principal was given an amount that could be used in their school, Shaw said. Principals met with teachers to develop their schoolâ€™s budget, then the administrative staff put together the budget.
Middle School Principal Jeanne Courneene said the process was empowering for the staff.
â€śIt made us more efficient. We had to prioritize every item and figure out what was best for the students and school overall,â€ť Courneene said.
The district ended the fiscal year with a fund balance, which enabled it to pay for a grease interceptor to prevent grease from the schoolâ€™s kitchen entering Cedar Groveâ€™sÂ Â Â wastewater system.
â€śIt turned out our line was hooked directly into the villageâ€™s system and had to be separated,â€ť Shaw said.
The budget includes sharing Food Services Manager Jane Mentink with the Oostburg School District, which will save $12,000 in salaries and benefits. Oostburgâ€™s superintendent requested the arrangement, Shaw said. An additional part-time server will be hired for four hours a day.
â€śEven with the added hours, we will save money,â€ť Supt. Steve Shaw said. â€śI think youâ€™re going to see districts doing a lot more sharing. If it doesnâ€™t work, we can always change it.â€ť
An item that is not in this yearâ€™s budget, but may show up next year is the purchase of e-readers, such as Kindles, for some classes.
Three new senior English classes â€” short stories, nonfiction and public communication â€” were approved for 2011-2012.
â€śWhy not offer these courses with Kindles?â€ť board member Chad Hoopman suggested.
Courneene, who used the machine for graduate courses, was enthusiastic about the prospect.
â€śI can see students downloading short stories and having discussion circles with them,â€ť she said. â€śShort stories load in five minutes. You can highlight on it and look up a word instantly.â€ť
Books can be downloaded for $10 and remain on the Kindle indefinitely, she said.
Hoopman said he hopes to see fewer textbooks purchased and more on-line and e-technology incorporated as curriculums are reviewed.
â€śStudents hate to journal, but you ask them to blog and they go at it. They donâ€™t think of it has homework,â€ť she said.