School Board Passes $97m Budget; Speedy Vote After Almost No Public Objection
After a 30-minute budget hearing in which one resident spoke, the Stevens Point Area Public School District Board unanimously approved a 2012-2013 budget that increases property owners’ school taxes.
Of the 30 available chairs Monday night, fewer than half were filled for the budget hearing, and nearly a dozen of those seated were connected to the school district in some way.
Reid Rocheleau of Stevens Point, who regularly attends meetings and questions the district leadership on various issues, said he was disappointed that the district increased the tax levy to the maximum allowed, but added that he appreciated that officials were continuing to examine ways of meeting costs without asking more of the public.
“It seems every year before a couple of years ago we were going for these big referendums and maybe your doing something right here now,” he said.
The board passed the $97 million budget after little discussion, an increase of nearly $3.2 million over last year’s spending budget. The district 2012-2013 revenues will reach nearly $94.6 million. The district will use nearly $2 million from its fund balance to help offset that difference. That decision was made earlier this school year to hire additional staff for the secondary level.
The district’s tax levy will rise nearly 3 percent to just over $32 million, which results in a school tax rate of $8.60 per $1,000 equalized value, or a 4.5 percent increase over last year’s rate of $8.23 per $1,000 equalized value. For school district residents with property valued at $100,000, that represents an increase of $37 a year.
School Board member Lisa Totten recused herself from the vote.
Officials say the higher tax levy and accompanying increase in school tax rate is due to a drop in the value of property across the district. The district’s equalized value fell nearly 1.5 percent this year to about $3.72 million compared to last year’s value of $3.78 million.
“If the tax levy would’ve been even, the rate still would’ve gone up because the equalized value declined,” said Tom Owens, the district’s Director of Business Services.
State aids also fell more than $415,000 to $36,043,299, officials said.
School Board member Renee Sheibley said the district gets “a good benefit” for its tax dollar in the district, as the cost to educate a student in this district is under $12,000 per pupil while the state average is over $13,000 per pupil.
The school district saw more than 40 fewer students this year for its third Friday in September count compared to last year. The third Friday in September count is one part of the formula the state uses to calculate state aids.
In passing the budget, board members gave their approval to remain on target to have all of the district’s current $4.9 million debt paid off in the 2015-2016 school year.
“That’s really a good bit of news for the district,” School Board president Dwight Stevens said.
State law allows school districts’ debt to be up to 10 percent of the prior year’s equalized value, which means Stevens Point Area Public School District could use up to $378 million. The district is using about 1.3 percent of what is allowed under law.