Douglas County school budgets undergo final revisions
Douglas County schools balance revenue limits and equalization aid to arrive at final numbers.
With the certification of state equalization aid Oct. 15, the School District of Maple was able to set the 2021-22 budget and tax levy. The budget for the school year is $17.3 million.
The total tax levy of $8.6 million, which includes both Fund 10 general operating funds and the Fund 39 long-term debt levy, is $951,753 less than last year’s, according to business manager Paul Staffrude.
The 2021-22 tax rate will also drop, from $10.71 per thousand dollars of equalized property valuation to $9.06. That doesn’t necessarily mean property owners will see a smaller tax bill. Taxes on individual properties are calculated using assessed values in towns and villages, which can vary.
The budget is reached through a multi-step process, Staffrude said. The state revenue limit formula is calculated using a three-year average of resident students, which are taken on the third Friday in September. The formula usually adds a per pupil increase to provide more total revenue than the previous year.
“Up to 80% of the district’s Fund 10 operating revenue, between $12 and $13 million annually, is calculated from this formula,” Staffurde said. “Unfortunately, there was no increase in the state per pupil amount for 2021-22.”
That led to a $155,550 reduction in the revenue for the district.
State equalization aid was calculated Oct. 15 using a different formula, and was subtracted from the revenue limit dollars. Aid increased by $866,000, but Staffrude said that additional aid flowed to a $1 million property tax reduction.
Although the revenue limit calculation led to a shortfall, Staffrude said the revised budget of $17.3 million is $1.3 million more than the district's actual 2020-2021 expenses. The difference will be bridged with federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) grant monies, intended for COVID-19 related expenses, and additional state grants.
Putting together a budget for the school year is a balancing act, Staffrude said. Although the calculations needed to set the budget aren’t finalized until October, districts must have employment contracts, benefits and other commitments signed and in place before the July 1 fiscal year starts.
“This year and in many other years, the governor and Legislature battled over how much revenue will go to the schools into the summer after district commitments need to be made, and after the fiscal year starts,” Staffrude said.
With 70% of the district’s budget devoted to wages and benefits, that doesn’t allow much wiggle room when the final budget is set, he said.
The district will retain all staff and maintain all instructional programs originally planned for the 2021-22 school year, Staffrude said, with federal ESSER monies being used for student COVID recovery efforts including class size reductions and student mental health initiatives.
Superior School District
The Superior School Board will be presented with the revised budget for the 2021-22 school year at 5 p.m. Nov. 1 in the Administration Office board room.
Director of business services Shannon Grindell said the district's equalized aid for the school year will be $32 million, about $646,000 more than last year's amount. The third Friday enrollment count was down this year, but solid summer school enrollments helped with the district's three-year rolling average.
Equalized property values are up 7.9%, Grindell said, which will translate into a lower tax rate.
Solon Springs School District
The Solon Springs School Board will hold a budget hearing from 6-6:15 p.m. Monday, Oct. 25, followed by its annual meeting and a regular school board meeting at 6:30 p.m.