The Douglas County Board adopted a 2020 budget Tuesday, Oct. 29, that includes a half-percent decrease in the property tax levy.
The approximate $17.2 million levy accounts for about 30% of the county’s almost $57.2 million budget next year.
“We are showing some increases in sales tax revenue,” County Administrator Ann Doucette said. “It is up quite substantially.”
Other factors that contributed to the county’s ability to reduce its levy include state funding increases in health and human services and transportation aids adopted in the new state budget.
Overall, spending for general government services is budgeted to go down by 6% in 2020. Other areas where the county will spend less include culture, recreation and education, and the highway department, which will decrease by 15% in 2020 after the 2019 budget was amended to include reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for flood-related repairs.
Highway spending in 2020 is comparable to spending in years prior to 2019. Debt payments also decrease by about 3.9% in 2020.
Public safety, and Health and Human Services are projected to require increased spending next year, with public safety rising by a half percent. Health and Human Services, which provides mandated services funded in part by state and federal grants, is expected to rise by 4.6% next year.
Solon Springs school district
The Solon Springs School Board on Monday, Oct. 28, approved a total tax levy of just over $2.5 million for the 2019-20 school year, an increase of less than 1% from last year. The levy accounts for nearly 44% of the district’s $5.7 million budget.
The three-year student enrollment average for September 2019 was 301, nine fewer than the 2018 count.
State aid to Solon Springs increased this year by $123,653. Bookkeeper Lee Ann Garay said that’s significant to a district with a $5 million budget.
District Administrator Frank Helquist said the levy has dropped by more than 13% since the 2015-16 school year. Since voters approved a $500,000 referendum in 2016, the levy is down almost 6%.
Maple school district
The School District of Maple approved a $9.6 million tax levy for the 2019-20 school year, a decrease of $630,000 or 6%.
This is the fourth year in a row the district levy has decreased, according to business manager Paul Staffrude. Since 2015, the levy has dropped by about 12%.
Property taxes will pay for 37.2% of the district’s $15 million Fund 10 operating budget.
The September 2019 three-year average enrollment count of 1,323 was down from last year by 17 students and state equalization aid increased by $790,860 this year.
A district levy is based on equalized values set by the state, Staffrude said, but the taxable value of a property is based on local assessed values. Even with a decrease in the tax levy, some property owners could pay more due to changes in their property’s assessed value.
Overall, property values increased by 2.8% in Douglas County, Doucette said.
Superior school district
The Superior School Board on Monday, Oct. 28, approved a total tax levy for the 2019-20 school year of $21.8 million, up $544,089 from last year.
The overall district budget is $76.7 million, which includes general operations as well as debt service, capital projects and student activity. The district’s operating budget for 2019-20 is $59.8 million.
The tax levy supports 23% of the budget for the year. State aid to the district decreased by $757,313.
The district had 4,625 students enrolled as of the third Friday count in September, down 62 students from September 2018.
There are things people can do to ensure their school district is eligible for the maximum state and federal aid, Burger said.
The census count, taken every 10 years, affects federal funding for special education, after-school programs, and free and reduced-price lunch. Every person missed on the census equates to about $1,600 in lost revenue for the state, according to the Wisconsin Public Education Network.
Annual pupil counts taken on the third Friday in September and the second Friday in January also ensure an accurate student count, and families should fill out a free and reduced lunch application with the district every fall. They can reapply if financial circumstances change during the school year.
City of Superior
The Superior City Council adopted its 2020 budget Oct. 15 and scheduled a public hearing.
Property owners will see a slight increase in the city’s portion of the overall property tax levy. The levy will increase this year by less than 1% after going down last year, reflecting the increased cost of providing basic city services. No new initiatives, not even the City Council’s stated priorities, were addressed by the city’s adopted $30.8 million revenue and expenditure plan for 2020.
Overall, the plan calls for a 2.5% increase in spending in 2020, paid for in part by increases in transportation aides and by a transfer of oil pipeline terminal tax revenue to the general fund budget.
The public can weigh in on the budget at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5, in Room 201 of Government Center.