Preliminary budget calls for 4% decrease in rate to support 2016-17 spending
Buoyed by projected increases in property valuation and state aid, the Grafton School Board on Monday endorsed a preliminary budget that calls for a 4% cut in the tax rate.
The board-backed plan calls for a total tax levy of $16.93 million to support 2016-17 spending. Although the levy is projected to decrease by only $29,000 from 2015-16, several other factors will allow the district to pare the tax rate.
Topping the list is a projected increase of 5.1% in the district’s equalized valuation, which is expected to grow by $60.6 million.
Although the valuation figures will not be finalized until Oct. 1, Director of Business Services Topher Adams said the 5.1% increase is based on reports from local municipalities. Included are valuation increases of 5.4% in the Village of Grafton and 4.8% in the Town of Grafton.
Earlier budget projections were based on a 2% increase in property valuation, Adams said higher estimates are more realistic.
“We definitely expect more than 2%,” he told the board.
Helping pare the total levy is a $98,520 decrease in the portion to pay debt service.
Last year, the board approved an $800,000 cash defeasance to prefund existing debt. The defeasance was “intended to avoid having large fluctuations in our year-to-year property tax levy,” Adams said.
For the 2016-17 budget, the board agreed to add $600,000 to the debt service levy. That move concurred with a recommendation from Baird, the district’s financial consultant, as a way to continue stabilizing the annual overall levy.
The spending package includes an increase of $89,106 in state aid. Based on a three-year rolling average, district enrollment is projected to grow from 2,025 to 2,042 students.
The enrollment total included 4-year-old kindergarten, which the district added in 2014.
Based on the projected levy, the tax rate would decrease from $11.18 to $10.73 per $1,000 of equalized valuation.
That means the owner of a $250,000 home would pay $2,683 in school taxes, a decrease of $112.
The owner of a $300,000 home would pay $3,219 in school taxes, a $134 decrease.
Several unknown variables could still impact the final levy and tax rate, Adams said. Those include third-Friday enrollment count on Sept. 16, equalized valuation on Oct. 1 and certification of state aid Oct. 15.
The budget is being prepared for presentation at the annual meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 26. At that time, residents will provide an advisory vote on the levy.
The board is scheduled to approve the final levy Oct. 24.