Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Tax Impact of the New Referendum

Although the calendar as I write this reads December 8th, the view and temperatures outside are more like October; nonetheless, I am confident that winter weather will be on its way sooner or later and with that comes the potential for school closures.  As we have in the past, the district intends to provide timely updates to students, parents, staff, and community members via our emergency telephone system as well as by posting information on all of the major TV and radio stations in the area. 

Secondly, I wanted to continue to address various aspects of the upcoming levy override referendum which is planned for this spring.  As a reminder, the new levy override referendum will not be scheduled to begin until the 2017-2018 schoolyear after the current one for $790,000.00 per year expires.  We will also be seeking $110,000.00 more per year in the new referendum largely based on a conservative inflation estimate of about 1.6% per year over the life of the current referendum (an average of the CPI and COLA mentioned last month) for a total of $900,000.00.  It was incorrectly reported in the November 18th edition of the Barron News-Shield (available here: http://www.news-shield.com/news/top_stories/article_b7450576-8dfe-11e5-8285-eb91f26ebc79.html) that if approved, the new referendum would cost taxpayers $175 more per year on a $150,000 home.  As you can see from the table below, that is in fact NOT the case; based on our projections taxpayers should see a very slight increase in property taxes to schools ($44.25/year on $150K property) in the first year (17-18) of the new referendum followed by a slight rise over the five (5) year period back to a mill rate level similar to this year’s (2015-2016).  Please note that this slight rise predicted is after a net decrease of $106.05 in the last year of the $790,000.00 referendum; therefore taxpayers will actually pay roughly $66 LESS per year in the first year of the new referendum versus their costs this year.

Fiscal
Year of
Referendum
Mill Rate
Tax Impact on
Difference
Year
Referendum
Amount

$150,000
Year to Year
2015-16
4
$790,000.00
12.120
$1,818.000

2016-17
5
$790,000.00
11.413
$1,711.950
-$106.05
2017-18
*1
$900,000.00
11.708
$1,756.200
$44.25
2018-19
*2
$900,000.00
11.846
$1,776.900
$20.70
2019-20
*3
$900,000.00
11.968
$1,795.200
$18.30
2020-21
*4
$900,000.00
12.077
$1,811.550
$16.35
2021-22
*5
$900,000.00
12.171
$1,825.650
$14.10






*Proposed referendum




This chart assumes property valuation remaining constant


As noted, these are projections based upon all available information; since we have held property values flat in our projections, it is very likely that property taxes will actually decrease more significantly over the life of the new referendum if property values continue to rise as they have the last two years.  This then translates to lower mill rates than predicted above.  As mentioned previously, I will be continuously providing information over the next several months regarding the referendum. 

As always, please feel free to contact me at any time.  Happy Holidays!

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Additional Referendum Information

At last evening’s board meeting (Monday, November 16), the board of education discussed the parameters for the next levy override referendum question which will be posed to voters at the April 2016 election to replace the current $790,000.00 referendum which expires at the end of next school year (2016-2017).  After some discussion, it was decided that the district will ask voters to approve a levy override referendum to exceed the revenue caps for five (5) years beginning in 2017-2018 for $900,000.00 per year.  This will be made “official” at our January regular meeting when the board adopts a resolution to poise the question to voters.  The rationale for asking voters for additional dollars in the new referendum has everything to do with the past three consecutive budgets either reducing the revenue caps or holding them flat.  In short, the State has not provided school districts with any additional revenue limit authority (and in one budget substantially reduced the caps) to provide for additional funding to maintain programs and services and continue various maintenance and renovation plans.  This in conjunction with the fact that expenses have increased an average of 1.65% [an average of the Federal “cost of living” and the Consumer Price Index (CPI)] each of the past nine years indicates that the district will need to seek $900,000.00 per year to continue to operate as we have in the past while also addressing maintenance and renovations planned for the future.

A likely question is “how will this impact my taxes?”  Thankfully, the same factors mentioned above as rationale for increasing the referendum to $900,000.00 are also reasons as to why the overall tax impact of the additional $110,000.00 per year are predicted to actually decrease slightly and then slowly rise back to current levels over time as is illustrated in the table below:

Fiscal Year
Tax Levy Amount
  Mill Rate
$790,000.00
2012-13
$5,118,384.00
13.273
$790,000.00
2013-14
$4,828,758.00
11.723
$790,000.00
2014-15
$5,187,030.00
12.392
$790,000.00
2015-16
$5,286,826.00
12.120
$790,000.00
2016-17
$4,978,464.00
11.413
Projected
$900,000.00
2017-18
$5,209,083.00
11.708
Projected
$900,000.00
2018-19
$5,375,929.00
11.846
Projected
$900,000.00
2019-20
$5,540,282.00
11.968
Projected
$900,000.00
2020-21
$5,702,177.00
12.077
Projected
$900,000.00
2021-22
$5,861,653.00
12.171
Projected


An additional question that voters no doubt have is “what exactly do you plan on doing with this money?”  As was alluded to in prior communications, a portion of the levy override dollars allows us to maintain current programs and staffing levels while the largest portion allows us to address some significant needs in our facilities.  If the new referendum passes, the district intends to address the Band, Choir, Agriculture Education, Technology Education, Art, and various other rooms in the South wing of the High School adjacent to the commons.  These areas have remained largely untouched since the mid 1950’s.  In addition, we will address the Technology Education area at the Riverview Middle School.  There is also a need to begin to replace/ repair asphalt in parking lots and driveways over time and to update HVAC systems district wide; in addition, there are many additional projects that are planned at Almena Elementary and Ridgeland-Dallas Elementary including bathroom updates, parking areas, playground updates, etc.

I intend to provide additional statistics in the future as well as conduct community listening sessions in the coming months; these will be publicized in local media as well as in our buildings.  I also invite anyone interested to give me a call or stop in to the district office to ask questions or for a tour of our facilities.

As always, please feel free to contact me at any time.

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

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Referendum Information

As you may have already heard, the district is planning on asking voters to approve a levy override referendum at this spring’s election to be held on Tuesday, April 5th.  The current levy override referendum is for $790,000.00 per year for five (5) years ending at the conclusion of the 16-17 schoolyear.  Why would we ask voters to approve another levy override referendum prior to the current one expiring?  The reason behind asking the question earlier is to allow us to ask voters two additional times (the fall of 2016 and the spring of 2017) if the first attempt were to fail without having to cut programs or modify facility maintenance plans in the immediate future.  To be very clear- the referendum question on the ballot this spring will state that if passed, it would not become effective until the 17-18 schoolyear after the current one expires running for five (5) additional years until the 21-22 school year.  We are still in the planning stages and working on finalizing the exact figures for this new referendum proposal therefore we are not completely certain on what dollar amount will be requested at this time; this will become clear very shortly as we receive our certified State aid figures on October 15th allowing us to finalize and set this year’s budget.  From there, we will develop solid numbers for the new referendum amount in late October/ early November which will be shared widely with the public shortly thereafter through community meetings, newsletter articles, and the media up until the vote is taken in April.  The board will make this “official” at their regular meeting in January when they adopt a resolution approving the referendum amount and duration while allowing it to be placed on the ballot.  I cannot stress enough that all necessary information will be shared with our community members on numerous occasions once our plans have been finalized.

Why is an additional levy override referendum necessary?  There are two main factors that necessitate a continuation of a levy override in our district.  The first is our need to continue to update and maintain the facilities we have to ensure that they remain usable and functional for many years to come in addition to allowing us to update classrooms and programs to today’s standards.  We intend to continue with our facilities plans and will address multiple areas in nearly all of our facilities; some of the larger projects discussed are: updates/ renovations to the agriculture education area, technology education area, band room, choir room, and art room at the high school in addition to updates/ renovations to the technology education area at Riverview middle school. We are also planning on numerous other updates and improvements throughout the district including asphalt repair/ replacement, entry door replacement, HVAC updates and improvements, lighting updates, and many others.  The second reason for a continued levy override referendum is as a result of two consecutive State budgets that have either decreased or held flat our revenue.  Regardless of what is shared through the media and some members of our legislature, we have not seen an increase in our revenue cap for the past 3 consecutive years and will not see an increase next year.  With the way school funding in Wisconsin works, no increase in the revenue cap means no “new” money for schools to have access to while expenditures continue to rise on a yearly basis; simply put, things do not get cheaper year after year for schools or any person or organization.  The levy override dollars will allow us to continue to not only improve and maintain our facilities but will also allow us to continue to offer the comprehensive programming and academic services we offer to our students and our community.  More information will be forthcoming as promised.   

As always, please feel free to contact me at any time.

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

Monday, September 14, 2015

School and District Report Card Update 9-2015

For the past two years, I have focused this month’s article in the newsletter on school and district report cards; this month will unfortunately not contain any information on our students’ collective academic achievement due to the fact that there was legislation adopted as part of the biennial budget that prohibits the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) from developing and disseminating school report cards with information from the State-wide testing that occurred last year (14-15).  This is unfortunate because one of our measures of success and improvement is based on our performance as illustrated on these report cards over time; as you may remember, we saw significant improvement from 12-13 to 13-14 and we hoped to see similar results into 14-15.  The primary reason for this is the fact that the legislature did away with the Badger exam which was administered last year only to students in grades 3 through 8.  Students in grades 3 through 8 this year will take yet another State-wide assessment now referred to as the Wisconsin Forward Exam; this exam will be web based and will test students in the content areas of math, reading, science, and social studies this spring.  With that said, I wanted our parents and community members to be aware of the fact that district personnel will nonetheless evaluate the testing data that we have to ensure that our educational and academic programming continue to improve.  The district does have access to individual student performance as well as grade level performance data that we can analyze to determine progress- there will however be no school report cards issued publicly.

Lastly, it is worth mentioning that these changes are as a result of adopted legislation and are NOT by the choice of our district or the DPI; I feel it is important to be aware of our performance as an organization and we will do our best to ensure that we are continuously improving regardless of what the legislature has in store for us.  Thank you all for your support.

For more information regarding the Wisconsin Forward Exam, please visit: http://oea.dpi.wi.gov/assessment/forward

As always, please feel free to contact me at any time.

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

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Welcome Back!

In just a few short weeks, we will once again be beginning another school year!  The summer months have certainly flown by this year and we have been busy getting things prepared for a smooth start to the 15-16 school year.  As you may have noticed there have been a number of things happening at Riverview Middle School this summer.  The construction on the middle school science rooms is coming along; the special countertops for science rooms are on back order and as a result, we will not be able to have classes in those rooms until mid-September.  The work on the cabinets and countertops in the middle school FCE room should be complete and ready when school begins.  Lastly, we have also completed a landscaping project in the front of Riverview which has really cleaned up the overall appearance.  We have also continued with roof replacements on various buildings as well as taken care of some issues with concrete and asphalt in a number of locations.  In addition to the facility maintenance and upkeep, we have been busy hiring new staff members for multiple vacancies.  The hires that we have made thus far have all been very high quality and for the handful of positions we have left, I have no doubt that we will be able to recruit and hire talented individuals to work with our kids.  The landscape of public education hiring and personnel management has changed drastically over the past five or so years creating circumstances that we have not experienced in this field before.  This certainly makes the process of hiring a very different experience, but it does not change our goal of recruiting and retaining the highest quality personnel in all of our positions.

I hope you all have had an opportunity to enjoy some time off with family and friends this summer.  I am looking forward to beginning my third year at Barron Area School District and am excited to continue our work on delivering the best education in the area to all of our students.  

As always, please feel free to contact me at any time.

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

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Change in General Aid for School Districts 2014-15 to 2015-16

Click the link provided to be directed to an interactive map of Wisconsin to see the changes in general school aids from 14-15 to 15-16 based on the "likely" to be approved State budget.  If you click on Barron county, you can see every school in the county and whether they gained or lost aid and to what degree.

http://www.wisconsinbudgetproject.org/interactive-data-feature-change-in-general-aid-to-school-districts


You will see that BASD lost around $160,000 in aid which will have an impact on the local levy- we will know more when final numbers come in by October.

Please contact me at any time.

Craig Broeren
715-537-5612 x402
broerenc@barron.k12.wi.us

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Wrapping Up

The close of a school year always seems to offer an excellent opportunity at reflection.  How did things go this year?  Where have we made progress, where have we not?  What are the good things we do that we should do more of?  Engaging in this type of reflection allows for deep examination of our current circumstances and also pushes us to change where necessary.  With that said, I do feel that we have made progress this year in many areas- particularly in continuing to help students who need it most despite all of the other “nonsense” we may have to deal with in public education.  State politics, budget, mental health, testing, accountability, and all of the other things we hear about in the media cause us to question whether or not we are truly making progress and if this is all “worth it”.  Loren Eiseley wrote an excellent short story that metaphorically describes whether or not what we do is “worth it”; perhaps you have heard it referred to as “The Starfish Story” as shared here: 

“Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"

The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."

"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "It made a difference for that one.” 

We have to operate under the premise that each and every act we engage in makes a difference over time; that even though there may be many miles of beach we must start somewhere and make a difference where and when we can.

As always, please feel free to contact me at any time.

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

Monday, April 27, 2015

Board Election Results and Congrats to the Class of 2015!

Since there is not much new on the horizon from the State in the form of finances I thought it would be appropriate to share with our district residents the results of the most recent school board election conducted in April 7th, 2015.  To begin, Chris Broten, who represented the Dallas area, chose to not run again this year after 14 years of service as a board member.  She was an excellent board member and an advocate for kids in the Barron Area School District- we will miss her contributions and are very appreciative of her years of service.  As a result, Aaron Amundson who was an “at-large” representative to the board ran for the Dallas area spot and was elected to serve in that position which will mark his second term.  Rod Nordby ran for a city of Barron seat which he has held since he was first elected in 2003 and was re-elected once again to that same seat.  Lastly, Dan McNeil ran for the vacated at-large seat and was successfully elected to his first term as a board member.  As you may know, Dan is a retired educator who taught for many years in the Barron Area School District at Woodland elementary; he will be a great addition to the board and will no doubt be a strong advocate for our kids.  Congratulations to all of our newly elected or re-elected board members and again a sincere thank you to Chris Broten for her years of public service.   

Secondly, I would like to congratulate the class of 2015 and wish them well in their future endeavors. This year, the weather has been signaling that it is getting close to graduation time but as usual, it has still arrived more quickly than expected.  I am confident that this group of graduates is headed for many successes in their futures with plenty of diverse opportunities to look forward to.   

As always, please feel free to contact me at any time.

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

Thursday, March 19, 2015

BASD Now on Facebook!

Hello Everyone-

Just a quick note to let you know that the Barron Area School District is now on Facebook!  Please visit the site below and "like" the page.  We plan to put information and updates regarding all of the activities and events occurring as well as great things are kids and staff are doing.

www.facebook.com/barronareaschooldistrict

Monday, March 9, 2015

Facilities and Other Things

As I write this we are set to experience temperatures in the 50’s with a shot at possibly 60 this week; it is hard to believe that the last time we saw a 60 degree reading was October; even the winters in Wisconsin come to an end eventually.  Although there is a strong possibility that we will have another snow day or two, the odds of this year being as bad as last are quickly dwindling.  As temperatures warm up, we are able to begin/ continue some construction projects that are typically on hold during the winter.  To begin, we will once again be addressing some of our aging roofs in the district and have plans to replace the rest of the roofs on Riverview Middle School (some were done this past summer) and also replace the roof at Almena Elementary.  There are certainly other roofs in the district that need to be addressed and our plans are to take care of roofs at Woodland Elementary and the High School over the next few years if we can based upon how the next biennial budget pans out, in addition to other plans within the district.  The spacing out of roof replacements is part of our plan to avoid having a “big hit” to the budget all in a short time span; in addition, it will help in future years for budgeting purposes if all of the roofs do not need to be replaced in the same time period.  We will also begin a project to remodel two science classrooms over at Riverview Middle School; this work is scheduled to begin in May and the hope is that it is finished in time to start the 15-16 school year.  If not, we do have a plan in place that will allow us to start on time with those particular classes occurring at the middle school but in different rooms.  You may ask: “why are all of these projects occurring when we are worried about the next biennial budget?”  The answer to that question is fairly simple, but with some complex background. 

When I was hired as Superintendent nearly two years ago, one of the main concerns the board had shared with me was that there was some community sentiment that the district had not followed through on some of the proposed projects and updates that were discussed when the first referendum passed around 8 years ago.  When I began as Superintendent we were in the second year of the latest referendum- as a result, my question to the board was- what did we say we were going to do?  After hearing the answers and evaluating the information we had in the district, we developed a plan to address as many as the promised renovations/ updates as possible given the approval of the referendum dollars to do just that; in short, we were going to make progress.  Since that time (and as I reported in a newsletter update last year) we have accomplished many of the items discussed and have plans to continue as long as financially feasible.  The complexities come in due to the nature of school finance and how schools are provided aid- this is called the “equalized aid formula”.  As I have reported here in the past, our revenue is made up of local tax levy (including the referendum dollars) and equalized State aid; if State aid goes down, local levy goes up in general- the opposite is also true.  The fiscal rationale behind spending nearly all of the revenue we have access to is based on how the equalization aid formula works- in short, if we do not spend all (or nearly all) of our revenue, we will lose some equalized State aid in the following year.  As I indicate above, this would have the effect of increasing the local levy based on the likely decrease in equalized State aid.  Therefore, when districts have access to referendum dollars as we do, it is even more important to spend those dollars on the projects and items we promised we would spend them on because in doing so we actually stand a better chance of not losing State aid than if we underspent.  It is also important to note that it is absolutely imperative that we take steps to ensure our facilities are updated in a responsible fashion- as all of us realize, maintenance and updates are crucial to avoid larger financial consequences in the future- we need to take care of what we have.  

As always, please feel free to contact me at any time.

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

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

State Budget Update

Recently, the Governor introduced his budget and as a result, there are a couple of items that I wanted to bring to your attention.  First, the Governor proposed keeping funding for K-12 education “flat” but also proposed the removal of a $150 per pupil “special” categorical aid public school districts received this year; for Barron Area, this translates to a reduction of roughly $210,000.00.  In addition, the Governor’s budget also proposes the expansion of the voucher program (currently capped at 1000 students) state-wide with no cap; this also will likely translate to a reduction in aid due to the fact that no “new” money is being put into education and the dollars to fund the voucher program expansion will come off the top of existing funds that would have went to public schools.  These are important points to consider as they (if enacted into law) will have a negative impact on the educational opportunities we are able to provide our kids. Following is an article produced by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (www.wistax.org), a non-partisan organization whose mission is to “help the public and press understand how Wisconsin governments work, tax, and spend so informed citizens can promote responsible policy-making”.  I thought it clearly relevant to the recent budget proposals:

 

School revenues under state budget proposal

State school aid is the largest part of the state budget and probably the most watched. So, when Governor Scott Walker (R) unveiled his proposed 2015-17 budget, attention turned to K-12 education and funding for Wisconsin’s 424 public school districts.
The world of school finance is complex. Districts operate on a combination of state general aid, categorical aid (for special programs), local property taxes, and smaller amounts from other sources, including from the federal government. To complicate matters, the state limits the per student amount of state general aid and local property taxes districts can collect (revenue limits). The revenue limit does not include categorical aids.
The new budget does several things, including:
·         No increase in general aid in 2016 and a $108 million increase in 2017;
·         No increase in revenue limits in either year; and
·         Eliminating in 2016 and restoring in 2017 a special categorical aid payment.
So what does this mean for local school districts? First, the $108 million general aid increase in 2017 provides no additional money to schools. Since school revenue limits are not increasing, school districts must reduce property taxes by a similar amount to stay within the limits. Second, schools will see a $127 million cut in 2016 due to loss of the special categorical payment mentioned above.  Third, restoration of that categorical payment at a slightly higher level increases school revenues by $142 million in 2017.
The impact of the Governor’s proposed budget for an “average” school district is shown below. This year, the typical district is allowed to collect $9,815 per student from a combination of state general aids and local property taxes. It also gets a $150 per student payment—from the $127 million figure mentioned above—for a total of $9,965 per student. With the categorical payment eliminated next year, revenue in the typical district declines 1.5% to $9,815 per student and approaches 2009 levels. In 2017, the payment is restored at about $165 per student and the district’s total rises to $9,980, or $15 above 2015 levels.


With that said, it does look like we will be able to meet our budget obligations for next year but not without making some choices regarding our facilities and other areas.  It is far too early to know anything for certain due to the fact that the budget will most likely see some changes prior to being enacted into law.  We will continue to keep our eyes and ears open and I will provide updates as necessary.

As always, please feel free to contact me at any time.

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

Thursday, January 15, 2015

2015 Legislative Session

As you are likely aware, we have started a new legislative session at the capitol as of the beginning of January.  Although I typically refrain from being overtly political, it is important for you to be aware of the fact that many new pieces of legislation impacting our schools will likely develop from this legislative session.  To be clear, I am NOT advocating for one political party or another, or even one particular viewpoint; I am however, advocating for our students.  To that end, I ask your assistance in being engaged in the political process this legislative session by staying informed as to pending legislation at the capitol and invite any of you to contact me at any time with questions regarding any pieces of legislation that impact our schools and our children.  It is always best to be armed with as much relevant and legitimate information as possible.  I also ask that you engage with your representatives to ensure that your voices are heard.  There have been some troubling bills that were introduced last session and from what I have heard, this session will be no different with perhaps even more troubling legislation possible.  My goal is not to change ways of thinking or to advance one political party or another; my goal is to provide our taxpayers with information on the actual impact of pending legislation on our kids and allow you to come to your own conclusions.

On a similar note, the legislature will also begin working on the next biennial budget in the coming weeks.  I have heard from some reliable sources that public education will see no increase in funding this biennium; however, this will not be fully known until the budget is finalized.  With that said, I feel it is important for our taxpayers and parents to know that we have been building next year’s budget with this in mind.  As it stands now, it looks as though (even with the potential freeze in funding) we will be able to meet our budget obligations for 15-16 without making reductions in staff or cutting programs.  There may be some changes necessary to some of the renovation and maintenance projects we have planned in the short term to deal with the lack of additional revenue.  It is difficult to predict too far into the future, but if schools continue to see decreases in revenue for more than a couple of years, maintaining our current programming will be difficult if not impossible.  We have certainly been fiscally responsible during my time here and will continue to be to allow us to maximize the experiences and opportunities for kids.  I will do my best to keep you informed of this and other relevant information.
          
As always, please feel free to contact me at any time.

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