Tax levy could decline 6 percent for Milton schools
MILTON A fall in property values is usually bad news, but for taxpayers in the Milton School District, it’s one factor behind a likely 6 percent cut in next year’s tax levy, officials said.
The Milton School Board’s budget committee on Friday forwarded a draft budget to showing a 5.99 percent tax levy decrease and a 4 percent cut in the tax rate next year.
District Business Services Director Mary Ellen Van Valin said a 2 percent dip in property values in the district helps signal the state that the district needs a financial bump. That along with an overall increase of 22 students pads the amount of general aid the district will receive from the state next year, Van Valin said.
According to figures from the Department of Public Instruction, the Milton district is getting $18.9 million in general state aid next year. That’s a 7.35 percent hike from last year, when the district struggled with a structural deficit amid a $2 million decrease in state shared revenue linked to budget cuts in Gov. Scott Walker’s biennial budget.
Bob Cullen, a local bank official and member of the budget and planning committee, said he’s glad to see an increase in state aid. And after several years of declining student enrollment, he’s encouraged to see numbers start to climb.
Cullen said he’s not thrilled to see local property values sag, but he said he’s trying to look on the bright side.
Still, it’s disarming because it lets the district plan spending without raising taxes, and the district won’t have to forge next year’s spending plans amid the looming specter of budget cuts and staff layoffs.
Cuts and staff reductions are issues the board has had to contend with each of the past two school years, and that has led some members this year to begin considering the option of a spending referendum that officials suggest would fuel district operations.
District officials said budget numbers released Friday would be based on the board allowing the district to tax the maximum amount allowed under state revenue limits. In the past 10 years, the district has “taxed to the max” only nine times.
Van Valin also told the board she reserved $130,000 in a segregated salary account “for the purpose of the board to continue to discuss the elementary (school) class sizes.”
On Monday, the board will discuss a plan to add extra staff to help in elementary classrooms that officials say are overstuffed. Some classes at Northside Intermediate School have as many as 29 students, and every third-grade section at Milton East Elementary School has 27 students, according to district enrollment records obtained by The Gazette.
The average class size in the elementary schools is 23 students, according to records.
By the numbers
A look at the 2012-13 budget for the Milton School District:
Next year $33.6 million
This year $33.1 million
Increase 1.69 percent
Next year $13.1 million
This year $14.01 million
Decrease 6 percent
(Per $1,000 of equalized valuation)
Next year $8.63
This year $8.99
Decrease 4 percent
Note: Percent changes calculated on whole numbers.