The Waupaca School District plans to levy $20,000 less in property taxes for 2011-12 than it did last year.
In 2010-11, the district levied $12.98 million. This year, if the district’s proposed budget is approved, the district will levy $12.96 million.
“The tax levy will be about the same this year as last year, but the mill rate is going up because property value decreased by nearly 4 percent,” said Waupaca School District Administrator David Poeschl.
The district’s tax rate will rise from $8.86 per $1,000 of equalized value in 2011 to $9.20 in 2012.
Poeschl said those whose equalized property values increased or decreased by less than the district average of 4 percent will see their school tax bill go up. Those whose property values went down more than the district average will see lower taxes.
Carl Hayek, the district’s business manager. noted that the district’s tax levy was $2.765 million under the state’s cap.
“I think the district is bringing forth a balanced budget to the taxpayer,” Hayek said, adding that the district was able to maintain its current levy even as state aid dropped by nearly $1 million.
District Administrator David Poeschl said the school board considered the current economic situation among local taxpayers when determining how much to levy.
He said the board and the administration balanced the district’s educational goals with the needs of students, staff and community members.
Poeschl said the district was able to reduce staff by increasing the student-teacher ratio for SAGE (Student Achievement Guarantee in Education) in kindergarten through third-grade classes risen from 15:1 to 18:1.
“While class sizes in some cases have increased, we believe it’s manageable and won’t affect the quality of education,” Poeschl said.
The Waupaca School District has reduced its staff by 11 full-time equivalent positions. Most of the staff cuts have been through attrition as retiring teachers were not replaced.
Poeschl said staff reductions have been part of the district’s long-range plans to respond to dwindling enrollment numbers.
While graduating classes at Waupaca High School once averaged more than 200 students each year, there are only 179 freshmen this year. Waupaca’s total count for the 2011-12 first grade has 140 students.
Other 2011-12 budget items were part of the district’s long-term financial goals.
“One of the budget’s goals was to build the post-employment benefit fund so that it will soon be self-sustaining,” Poeschl added.
He said the district’s contract calls for qualifying teachers to receive $400 per month for four years after they retire.
“We’re trying to build up a fund that will be able to pay out that benefit over time,” Poeschl said.
The fund has grown to nearly $1 million, The proposed 2011-12 budget adds $400,000 to the fund.
Health care costs are also lower in the 2011-12 budget.
“Last year, we formed a committee and worked with teachers and all other employers to bring about a plan-design change that saved us $450,000,” Hayek said. “The committee will continue to evaluate our health insurance.”
Another goal of the district’s budget has been to build up a fund for debt reduction. That fund was increased by $140,000 to a total of $290,000 in this year’s budget.
“We have a debt payment schedule for about 10 more years until the high school and the middle school are paid off,” Poeschl said. “We’ll use that money when we’re able to strategically buy down the debt.”
In his budget Oct. 10 report to the school board, Hayek compared Waupaca’s mill rate to those of neighboring school districts.
In 2010-11, Waupaca had a property tax rate of $8.86 per $1,000 of evaluation. Clintonville’s mill rate that year was $13.17, Manawa’s was $10.80, New London’s was $9.96, Iola-Scandinavia’s was $9.83 and Weyauwega-Fremont’s was $7.91.
Weyauwega-Fremont was the only district in Waupaca County with a lower tax rate last year. It was also the only district that has seen its mill rate rise less than Waupaca’s since 2006.
The tax rate in the Waupaca School District rose by 52 cents over the prior four years, while the tax rate in the W-F District rose by 48 cents. Clintonville’s rate went up by $3.82 per $1,000 of valuation. I-S saw a $2.39 rise in its mill rate while Manawa’s rate increased by $2.16 and New London’s increased by $2.10.
Poeschl said the Waupaca School District’s commitment to long-range planning has allowed it to keep a relatively stable budget and tax rate.
A public hearing on the district’s 2011-12 budget is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1, at the District Offices board room, 515 School St., Waupaca.