All three resolutions related to the 2020-21 District budget were approved unanimously at the Annual Meeting and Budget Hearing on Monday, Sept. 21.
Board of Education treasurer Bob Hesselbein provided a 10-minute overview of the budget. He was effusive of his praise for Assistant Superintendent of Operations Lori Ames and Director of Finance and Operations Erin Wheeler.
"I want to acknowledge their excellent work. Their extraordinary expertise is critical to ensuring the well-being of our District's financial situation,'' Hesselbein said.
The three resolutions that were voted upon and unanimously approved were:
- Resolution A: Resolution to Levy a Tax for Adding to Capital Fund. The fund, which is used for maintenance, will increase $25,000 to $1,050,000 this fiscal year.
- Resolution B: Adoption of Tax Levy of $78,769,335 for the 2020-21 fiscal year. That is an increase of almost $7 million from a year ago.
- Resolution C: Adoption of School Board Salaries for 2020-21. President Annette Ashley will receive $4,200 and the other eight Board members will receive $3,600.
The tax levy will likely increase by 7.99 percent and the mill rate will likely increase by 4.76 percent or $0.48 for every $1,000 of residential property value, Hesselbein said. That assumes a 3 percent increase in property value for homeowners in all eight municipalities that make up the District, Hesselbein said. The District had projected that the mill rate in 2020-21 would increase by $0.35 for every $1,000 of residential property value for operational expenses as a result of the successful 2018 referendum.
It means a homeowner with property assessed at $300,000 in 2020 will see the school district portion of their tax bill increase $239 in 2020 if the assessed value of their property jumps 3 percent to $309,000.
Official numbers won’t be available until the final budget is adopted before Oct. 31. Hesselbein said that numbers will vary by municipality. There are eight municipalities that make up the District.
Since 2003-04, the tax rate for the school district has decreased eight times. The mill rate in 2003-04 was $11.28 for every $1,000 of residential property value, while it is projected to be $10.57 for 2020-21. That is slightly above the state average.
Hesselbein noted the COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on school district budgets across the state, including declines in enrollment, potential changes to the state budget, and future financial constraints. He also shared that the District has already spent more than $656,000 that it normally doesn't budget for on personal protective equipment, sanitizer and disinfectant materials, technology and equipment or software, and additional time for staff to plan for various instructional models.
Hesselbein reminded the audience that the budget was based on an enrollment increase of approximately 130 students, but he noted enrollment has declined as some families have decided to home school or selected a parochial school as many of those in the area are meeting in-person. The District will learn its 2020-21 enrollment in early October after the official Third Friday September count.
Two revenues -- property tax and general state aid -- make up almost 96 percent of general fund for 2020-21, while nearly 83 percent of the District's expenses are tied to salaries and benefits, Hesselbein said.
The preliminary budget was approved in July. The adopted budget is scheduled to be approved at the School Board meeting on Oct. 26.
The 2020 Annual Financial Report and the 2020-21 Annual Meeting Presentation are posted on the Budget Information page on the District website.
The District also held a public review as part of the meeting to fulfill its obligation for the Child Internet Protection Act to receive its e-rate. Director of Technology Services Jim Blodgett gave a brief overview. He noted the District saves anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000 due to the CIPA.
Superintendent Dana Monogue then gave a brief State of the District presentation. She noted the District has spent "countless'' hours planning for the start of the school year. The District continues to be committed to:
- Our students and their success and happiness.
- Our belieft that all students can achieve at very high levels.
- Our ability to be responsive and agile, especially in the face adversity.
Monogue also reviewed the construction projects at Pope Farm and Park, which are completed, and at MHS, where Phase 1 is well underway. She thanked partners Eppstein Uhen Architects and J.H. Findorff & Son for their continued support.
She also praised the Education Foundation, which has raised about $150,000 since mid-March for meals for students, personal hygiene supplies and to make sure all District families who need internet access to participate in virtual learning have it.
She singled out District staff for their resilience, determination, creativity and focus on students, especially while virtual learning has taken place. She noted over the past year MHS consumer science teacher Tara Bradford was named the Wisconsin ProStart Teacher of the Year, Sauk Trail's Rebecca Saeman was named a winner of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, and MHS band teacher Doug Brown and Glacier Creek sixth-grade teacher Lyndsey Ebben were named Kohl Educational Teacher Fellowship Award winners.
"Even in the midst of a global pandemic, we have so much to be grateful for as a community and as a school district,'' Monogue said.
The video from the Budget Hearing & Annual Meeting is available on the District's YouTube Channel: