School Board approves 4 cent drop in tax rate; benefit of building refinancing will be felt later
For the second year in a row, spending is down in the Northern Ozaukee School District according to the budget unanimously approved by the 2014-15 school board on Monday.
Total spending in the budget is $16.6 million, down 1.28% from the $16.8 million spending plan put into place last year. Expenditures in that budget were down 4.6% from the previous year.
The new budget will require an equalized tax rate of $11.80 per $1,000 of property value, a drop of four cents per $1,000 from last year.
The district’s state aid increased slightly, from $2,653,370 in 2013-14 to $2,708,596 in 2014-15.
Similarly, after two years of declines, the district’s equalized property valuation — a key figure used in calculating state aid — rose by 1%, to $559 million.
With spending held largely in check, officials noted the biggest difference in the budget is the refinancing of $3.6 million in debt still owed on the construction of the middle school.
That debt service will increase from $705,000 to $872,000 in the 2014-15 budget, but will eliminate high back-end payments that were coming due at the end of the old payment schedule.
Payments were slated to rise to $937,000 by 2019, but will remain steady with the new payback plan.
The refinancing through First Citizens Bank of Whitewater is at an interest rate of 2.5%, and it will save the district more than $100,000 over the next five years.
No citizens attended the budget hearing, but Supt. Blake Peuse refused to read too much into their absence.
“I would not want to speculate on why people did not show up for the meeting,” Peuse said following the hearing.
“I would love to think that it is because we are doing such an outstanding job with the budget that there would be no need. We do, however, appreciate feedback from people, so in that way we miss the public comment.”
The only criticism of the budget came from board member Kendall Thistle, who took exception to the inclusion of $30,000 in an account earmarked for the law firm of Godfrey & Kahn.
The firm handled the lawsuit filed by the school district against Thistle and his wife over a berm erected on the family’s property adjacent to school land.
“I am curious why this money is in the budget for a lawsuit that was dismissed at (the district’s) request?” Thistle asked.
Peuse said some final issues still need to be resolved in the matter, which ended up costing the district more than $167,000.
“Not to budget for this would have been imprudent,” the superintendent said.
The Thistles reportedly spent $80,000 defending themselves in the suit.