State-imposed tax levy limits for school districts are affecting some popular community efforts, including an after-school program and another that lets senior citizens earn tax relief by working in the schools.
For 2013-14, student fees will increase for the after-school program sponsored by the New London School District.
Supervisor stipends and staffing costs for three other popular school-community programs will be reduced in the next school year.
They are four of eight Fund 80 programs, with revenue from property taxes and user fees.
The New London Board of Education approved changes in the Fund 80 programs at its Monday, July 29, meeting. The vote was 5-0, with board members Kim Schroeder and President Keith Steckbauer absent.
The attempt to reduce program costs is tied to Wisconsin state education funding regulations. Fund 80 is a community service levy, in effect in the New London district since 2002, to operate shared school-community activities outside the school day.
The eight programs, and their 2012-13 expenses, are:
• After-school program, open to students in kindergarten through grade six, $90,309. It runs from after school to 5:30 p.m. and includes time for study and play, and healthy snacks to fuel them. It is open to students from private and public schools.
• STEP (Senior Tax Exchange Program), which provides property tax relief to people over age 62 for their work in the schools, $27,146. The program is limited to 40 participants and there’s a cap on how much tax credit they can earn.
• Fitness Center staffing and equipment for 22 hours a week, $12,675 staffing. District residents who use the center during the extended hours pay $100 a year or $3 per visit. Marquardt said most of the 1,400 visits this school year were by district staff, who pay no fee.
• Racing for Education, in which teams of students in grades six through nine build and race carts, $18,117. Motivation and positive behavior reinforcement are among the goals for the program, and it also “provides an awesome opportunity for mentoring,” according to school administrator Kathy Gwidt, who noted that many parents and other people volunteer with Racing.
• A police liaison officer, for 1,600 hours at functions before, during and after the school day, $63,495. “It’s safety,” district business director Joe Marquardt said.
• After-school library, for 18 hours a week, $6,878.
• The 4K Community Collaborative, which provides 4-year-old kindergarten curriculum at three area daycare centers, $2,113. It offers an alternative to children attending 4K in district elementary schools.
• An annual community play, $1,428.
No Increase in Taxes
Under the 2013-15 state budget, the district is limited to collecting $124,000 in property taxes for Fund 80 programs. That is the same amount of money collected for 2012-13 programs.
Revenue for the programs also comes from after-school program fees, $42,662 in the 2012-13 school year, and Fitness Center fees, $1,142. That put total revenue at $167,704 in the 2012-13 budget.
Budgeted expenses for the programs in 2012-13 totaled $229,127, for a deficit of $61,423.
A fund balance of $156,193 covered the program losses, according to a summary provided to the board by district business director Joe Marquardt.
For 2013-14, Marquardt recommended reductions in coordinator stipends for STEP, the fitness center and Racing for Education.
The STEP coordinator would be paid $7,654, a cut of $2,970 from the 2012-13 stipend of $10,624.
The fitness coordinator stipend would be reduced by $500.
The Racing for Education coordinators stipend would be reduced by $3,300, from $18,117 to $14,817.
Marquardt said he had discussed the stipends with the coordinators.
“These folks helped in making suggestions,” he said, adding that all were dedicated to making the programs successful.
Increasing fees for the after-school program could bring in $10,000 more revenue, Marquardt said, noting that it is hard to budget because there’s no way to know if higher fees will reduce participation.
The current fee is $3 per child per day. Children who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches do not pay a fee for the after-school program.
Under a new tiered fee plan tied to lunch status, children would pay $5, or $3 if they qualify for reduced-price lunch, or $1 if they receive free lunch. There’s a cap of $40 per family per week.
Marquardt said the program averaged 125 to 150 children per day.
The district will save some money going forward because an equipment lease of $6,967 for the fitness center ended this year. Marquardt also noted that $22,000 budgeted for the purchase of equipment for the center had not been spent.
Board member Virginia Schlais said program start-ups took more time, and it was appropriate to cut funds now that programs are established. She assessed the recommendations as a good balance between increased fees and reduced stipends.