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School tax levy, rate hinge on referendum

Sept. 11, 2008

The St. Francis School District’s tax levy for the 2008-09 school year depends on whether a $14.9 million referendum passes this fall.

A $5.07 million tax levy, applicable if the Nov. 4 referendum fails, was approved Sept. 8. The tax rate would be $7.59 per $1,000 of equalized property value.

Business Manager Julie Kelly said the board will certify two levies in October to meet state deadlines. The second levy will be calculated after the board approves a referendum resolution later this month.

For 2008-09, officials expect less state aid due to a slight rise in property values and declining resident enrollment.

Kelly said the district has worked to pay off additional principal on outstanding debt, and is taking on additional debt to address some building issues through the referendum.

"If we move forward with the referendum, we're able to fill that drop while keeping the tax rate as consistent as it has been while adding about $14 million worth of debt to our structure," she said.

But if the referendum fizzles, the district's tax rate will decrease. That old debt is still removed but no new debt would be taken on.

"The important thing with the referendum is that if it does not get passed this year, it will be very harsh for all of us to watch taxes go down and then go all the way back up to where we are now," Kelly said. "That's why we are in a position that we are to be able to (go) out for almost $15 million."

Board President Jacqueline Hemmer said a $14.9 million referendum, which would allow for basic improvements, would have minimal impact on taxpayers.

The district's operating budget is projected at $13.5 million.

The rise in the tax levy does not indicate a proportional rise in spending, Kelly said.

The expected loss of state aid means the levy has to go up, but state-imposed revenue limits and other mandates force the district to trim expenses. Cuts were made to some areas of the budget so staff benefits and salaries could be kept at appropriate levels, she said.

Besides the outcome of the referendum, other factors also could affect the district's budget. School officials are waiting for the state to release the final revenue limit and the district's actual aid amount. After the Nov. 4 election, the board will present the district's tax levy to the city, Kelly said.

Chantel Balzell can be reached at (262) 446-6602.

Proposed budget

REVENUES:

• 41.9 percent from the state

• 34.1 percent from taxpayers

• 17.2 percent from Open Enrollment, tuition

• 4.2 percent from federal sources

• 2 percent from student fees, other local sources

• 0.6percent from miscellaneous revenue sources

EXPENDITURES:

• 76.4 percent for salaries and benefits

• 15.7 percent for personnel services

• 5.5 percent for supplies and equipment

• 1.8 percent for debt retirement/other

• 0.6 percent for district insurance

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