Menomonee Falls residents pass higher district levy
School taxes could increase 4.89 percent
Menomonee Falls — Menomonee Falls School District residents approved a 2.2 percent increase to the tax levy Monday.
At the district's annual meeting, nearly two dozen residents approved a total levy of approximately $39.2 million for the 2013-14 school year that will support a $47.8 million budget. The budget reflects a 2.21 percent increase to the levy. The increase is predominantly in the district's general fund that is increasing from approximately $34 million to $35 million. The levy also supports the debt service fund and the community service fund, that pays for the Community Education and Recreation Department.
The levy increase is directly related to the 15 percent loss in general state aid the district plans to see in 2013-14, said Director of Business Services Jeff Gross during the budget hearing that took place before the annual meeting. When state aid decreases, the levy makes up the difference.
The district is also estimating a 2.5 percent decrease to the equalized property value, which could cause school tax rates to increase by 4.89 percent.
"As property decreases, mill (tax) rate increases," Gross said.
The tax rate could fall anywhere between $12.04 to $12.35 per $1,000 of assessed value, Gross said. The mill rate is determined on equalized property values that will be certified Oct. 15. Initially, the district was estimating property values to remain flat. If this happens, a home valued at $250,000 would have a $65 increase to its school tax bill for the coming year. If values decrease by the 2.5 percent that is currently estimated, the school tax bill for a property valued at $250,000 would increase by $144, a 4.89 percent increase.
Dealing with decreases
While the levy amount is up from last year, the total revenues are down by about 1 percent. The levy increase for the 2013-14 school year comes after two years of a decreased levy.
In 2006-07, the revenue limits, which are the total dollars available for school districts to operate with, were pacing with the consumer price index. Since then, revenue limits have failed to pace with CPI, Gross said.
"In 2006-07 we had slightly more revenue to operate with than we will in the 2013-14 school year," he said.
The Falls school district has had a 55 percent decrease in state funding over the last five years. Since 2007-08, state funding has dropped from $15.8 million to about $7 million, which factors in the anticipated 15 percent loss this year.
"This is a pretty significant loss in state aid. I would say one of the highest losses across the state because our (property) values are holding in Menomonee Falls compared to the rest of the state," Gross said.
He said they have been able to keep the levy fairly level despite the losses in state aid because of debt refinancing and prepayment of debt.
The district has taken various steps in order to balance the budget while maintaining class sizes and programs for the 2013-14 school year.
For example, the district was able to save money by bidding out their transportation contract. For the current school year, the district reduced some of its busing routes that will also result in savings.
The number of overtime hours district-wide are being reduced, Gross said. In addition, the teaching load at the high school has increased. Teachers are now teaching six sections, instead of the usual five sections.
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