Friday, December 19, 2014

School Funding Video From the Department of Public Instruction

SPECIAL EDITION: School Funding Video
A new video, engaging enough that community members might be inclined to watch it over the holiday break, explains how school finance works in Wisconsin and the reasons for reform efforts.
The video from the Department of Public Instruction, Our School Funding System and Why Change is Needed, features animations and interviews.
Deb Pickett in her shop
The video features an interview with Deb Pickett, a business owner and parent from Darlington, as well as interviews with members of the Kettle Moraine and Monona Grove school boards.
At the end of the video, a YouTube annotation appears on the bottom of the screen, directing viewers to the DPI's Fair Funding for Our Future webpage to learn more.
State Superintendent Tony Evers’ earlier video explaining his 2015-2017 education budget is available athttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjvxZRt8kgI.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Possible Referendum- Additional Information

You may have read a relatively recent News Shield article regarding a possible referendum in the future for our district; I wanted to take an opportunity to provide some additional information and background so that our district residents are well informed.  To begin, we are only in the planning stages at this time and do not have solid plans as of yet regarding how we will proceed; with that said, it is important to note that we will take multiple steps to ensure that taxpayers are well aware of our plans and the possible tax implications through updates like this in addition to community meetings and ongoing discussions at the board level.  It seems a bit strange to most people, but some debt for school districts is actually beneficial when it comes to State aid; this is due to how the aid formula currently works in Wisconsin. Districts receive aid through a complex formula that takes into account equalized property values, enrollment, debt payments, and other factors and provides those payments to districts for operations with the remainder of the funding generated through local property taxes from our various municipalities.  Under our current school funding formula, districts have a statutorily imposed “revenue cap” which is the amount of money a district can generate comprised of State aid and local property taxes to maintain operations (personnel, facilities, programs, supplies, etc.).  In general, if State aid goes down, property taxes go up and vice versa.  Since Barron Area is a “highly aided” district (we receive proportionately more State aid than other districts our same size) the amount of aid we stand to lose as a result of low or no debt payments is great, which translates to increases in local property taxes.  A complicating factor currently is the fact that we are in the second year of the State’s biennial budget which means that our lawmakers will begin work on a new biennial budget to start the next legislative session beginning in January 2015; this is a complicating factor simply because it is very difficult to predict what the next budget for public education will look like.  As a result, we will not be able to develop definite plans until the new biennial budget is unveiled later this spring at which time we intend to run a number of scenarios to inform how we will proceed.  Following are some facts for reference regarding the possible referenda:

·        Schools in WI are funded through 2 primary sources: 1) Equalized State Aid and 2) Local Property Taxes.  If equalized State aid goes down, local property taxes go up and vice versa.

·        If the district does not incur MORE debt by the conclusion of the 2016-2017 school year, taxpayers will likely see an increase in local property taxes. This is due to the fact that schools receive State aid on debt payments they make- by the end of 2016-2017 the district would have very little debt which means little or no corresponding aid on those payments.  

·        The district will most likely need to maintain a “levy override referendum” to continue to meet facility maintenance and upkeep needs as well as operations.  The current levy override referendum is $790,000.00 per year and will expire at the end of the 2016-2017 school year and will have to be renewed- the amount will be determined when more information is available.  It is important to note that the levy override dollars are NOT debt therefore the district does not receive any aid as a result of this increased levy authority.

·        There have been two building/ renovation projects discussed: 1) The addition of a second gym at the HS estimated at $4 Million and 2) The update of the track and FB field at the HS estimated at $2 Million.  In order to fund these projects, the district would go to a building referendum which would cause the district to incur debt which would be aidable under our current funding formula.

·        The district also intends to continue to enhance our academic infrastructure by continuing to utilize the non-recurring levy override dollars as we recently have- thus far we have updated several rooms/ areas at the high school with plans to continue with updates to the high school agriculture area, tech ed. area, and corresponding rooms as well as updates to Riverview middle school’s science and tech ed. areas in addition to other maintenance and renovation projects district-wide.

·        At current levels of property value, enrollment, and State aid, the district could incur new debt up to nearly $8 Million without increasing the current mill rate.  This is due in part to the fact that we would be receiving aid on the “new” debt if the referendum(s) pass.  Our proposal at this time would request new debt of around $6 to $7 Million.
     
As always, please feel free to contact me at any time.

Sincerely,
Craig G. Broeren
District Administrator
715-537-5612 ext. 402