More state aid helps rate fall to lowest level in the past three years
Thanks to a bump in state aid, Cedar Grove-Belgium School District’s tax rate is coming down this year.
The School Board on Tuesday night approved the 2016-17 budget and tax levy, after the district held its annual meeting last week. The tax rate is $10.03 per $1,000 of equalized value, down 19 cents from last year’s rate of $10.22.
That translates to the owner of a $150,000 home paying $1,504.50 in school taxes.
State aid increased by about $500,000 from $6.3 to $6.8 million.
The district’s tax levy is $5.54 million, down about $26,000 from last year, while the entire budget is about $11.8 million.
Salaries and benefits decreased slightly from $6.2 million to $6.1 million.
Business Manager Kris DeBruine said dropping a section at the elementary school helped the district absorb increases in salary and benefits.
The School Board decided not to replace a 4-year-old kindergarten and first-grade teacher, citing low enrollment in the lower grades and higher enrollment at the upper levels.
The district is losing $187,000 due to open enrollment, a state program allowing students in one district to attend another. Cedar Grove-Belgium has more outgoing than incoming students.
Voucher permits nearly doubled this year, from $45,000 to $81,199. The state’s voucher school system allows a limited number of students to attend private schools at taxpayers’ expense.
Supt. Jeanne Courneene said the students attending private schools that the district is paying for may never have attended Cedar Grove-Belgium schools.
The district’s fund balance remains at $3 million, 21% of the operating budget, allowing the district with enough cash flow to avoid short-term borrowing to make payroll in between tax collections. DeBruine said most accounting firms recommend a fund balance of 20% to 30%.
Aside from the School Board, the annual meeting drew three residents — all district staff members.
School Board salaries were frozen at $1,000 per year for the president, clerk and treasurer and $900 for the other members, along with $20 per night for meetings. The vote was 3-0 since board members recused themselves.
The district’s equalized value increased to nearly $553 million, back to 2013-14 levels after several years of decreases.