District expects to cut school tax rate

Grafton officials anticipate 36-cent decrease with 5.2% increase in property valuation offsetting loss in state aid
By 
JOE POIRIER
Ozaukee Press Staff

Grafton School District officials are projecting a lower tax rate for the 2019-20 school year.

Last week, Business Services Director Topher Adams presented a proposed budget, tax levy and mill rate to the School Board during its Monday, Aug. 25, meeting.

Adams estimated a $0.36 decrease in the mill rate from $10.57 per $1,000 of property valuation last year to $10.21 per $1,000 for the current year.

That means the owner of a $200,000 home of equalized value would pay $2,042 in school taxes, down from $2,114.

Each year, school districts calculate their revenue limit based on three-year averages of student enrollment. Within the revenue limit, the district receives state aid based on student enrollment, spending per student and property values in the district.

Adams said the district expects a 23-student drop in its average enrollment over three years, with the current state budget providing a $175 increase per student.

“Based on those two factors and other minor adjustments, our 2019-20 revenue limit is expected to decrease $190,658 when compared to 2018-19,” Adams said. 

The projected operating budget for the 2019-20 school year is $24,475,137. Adams said the district expects to collect $16.21 million in taxes.   

The district’s referendum debt for its $39.9 million school facilities project is levied separately. The referendum levy to pay the debt is projected at $2.53 million. 

Adams said the decrease in the mill rate is expected to be offset by a 5.2% increase in projected equalized property values in  the district, which will also offset a decrease in state aid.

“When you have a drop in membership, especially coupled with an increase in property values, you’re going to have a loss in state aid,” he said. 

This year’s state aid numbers will be finalized in October. Adams said a July estimate shows the district’s state aid decreasing by $929,240 from last year’s certified amount, but the district is expecting a $738,582 increase in its levying authority compared to last year.

Adams said the proposed budget is balanced with no deficit. As the new school year begins, the district has budgeted for new hires, benefit options and other factors.

The spending package also includes an increase in per-pupil aid, which is an amount the state gives the district for each student.

Gov. Tony Evers adjusted the state budget with an increase of $88 per student rather than a $25 increase that was originally planned.

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