Adjustments in state aid, valuation allow district to pare rate more than expected
When residents of the Grafton School District approved a levy for the 2016-17 school budget last month, they were expected to receive a 4% cut in the supporting tax rate.
The news for property owners got even better Monday night when the School Board approved a final budget that calls for a 5% decrease in the tax rate.
The spending plan, finalized after the district received equalized valuation and state-aid figures, will be supported by a total levy of $16.9 million.
The levy includes $14.38 million for general-fund expenditures, $2.6 million for debt service and $50,000 for the capital expansion fund.
Although the total budget of $23.5 million is 2.6% higher than 2015-16, the levy remains virtually unchanged — up $645 from last year.
The tax rate was set at $10.61 per $1,000 of equalized valuation, down 5.1% from the 2015-16 rate of $11.18.
The owner of a $250,000 house can expect to pay $2,651 in school taxes, a $143.45 decrease from 2015-16. For a $300,000 house, the owner will pay $3,181 in school taxes, $172 less.
Topher Adams, the district’s director of business services, said increases in state aid and property valuation were major factors in stabilizing the levy.
The district received $119,844 more in equalized aid than estimated in July, Adams said. Districtwide property valuation was certified at nearly $1.6 billion, up $82 million, or 5.4%, from last year, he added.
The budget includes a tax-rate decrease even though the board recently decided to add $600,000 to debt service for 2016-17. That decision — which concurred with a recommendation from Baird, the district’s financial consultant — was made to continue stabilizing the overall levy, Adams said.
The board also agreed to renew health, dental and vision insurance programs for district staff.
The health insurance coverage through Humana includes an average increase of 2% in premiums, with employees having the choice of a high-deductible health plan or preferred-provider option.
Adams said the district initially faced a 12% premium increase, but that was reduced to 6% based on 69% of employees achieving silver status in Humana’s wellness program and then to 2% through negotiations.
There are no premium increases for dental or vision coverage through 2017.
The insurance renewals will allow the district to pare $60,000 in expenditures from the budget approved at the annual meeting, Adams said.