Taxpayers in the Weyauwega-Fremont School District will see a 1.52 percent increase in the mill rate that supports their schools.
The school board adopted a 2013-14 expenditure budget of $9.3 million by a vote of 5-1 on Monday, Oct. 28.
The budget, up 0.37 percent from the 2012-13 budget, will be supported by a levy of $5.14 million. That compares to the current levy of $5.025 million.
The school district mill rate will be $8.68 per $1,000 of property value, 13 cents higher than the present school mill rate of $8.55 per $1,000 of property value.
Voting in favor of the budget were Debi Bartel, Tony Beyer, Doug Ehrenberg, Sandy Smith and Jim Stuebs.
Neal Loehrke voted against it, and Dan Kohl was absent.
Loehrke said he was not able to support the budget because of the $15,000 levy it includes for the district’s Community Service Fund (Fund 80).
Initially, the school district was capped at a levy of $6,000 for that fund.
However, under a bill amendment signed by Gov. Scott Walker on Oct. 20, the district could levy $25,000 for that fund.
Among the programs Fund 80 supports is Senior Tax Exempt Programming (STEP).
“Didn’t you make that motion?” Smith said to Loehrke in regard to the $15,000 levy the budget included.
Loehrke admitted he had made that motion earlier, during the board’s regular monthly meeting.
“I would personally like it reduced to zero,” he said.
During the regular meeting, Loehrke said the $25,000 figure “is above and beyond the tax levy.”
District Administrator Scott Bleck said there are currently 25 people in the district’s STEP program.
If the district did levy $25,000, it could build another 10 people into the program, he said.
Dan Storch, the district’s business manager, said the legislation is part of the state’s biennial budget.
If the district did levy $25,000 this year, it would likely be able to levy the same amount next year, he said.
Up until last year, the district was always able to levy that amount for the fund, Storch said.
“The $25,000 would allow to increase STEP and maybe bring Zumba (exercise class) back, which was a benefit to many employees,” he said.
Loehrke said he received feedback from community members, saying they are not in favor of taxing above the revenue limit.
“Can we function with less than $25,000? Yes, we can,” Bleck said.
Loehrke then made a motion to direct the administration to levy $15,000 for Fund 80 instead of $6,000.
The board’s regular monthly meeting was followed by the district’s annual meeting.
During the annual meeting, district residents learned the increase in the mill rate is due to three things – declining enrollment, a decrease in state aid and an increase in property values.
The district’s current full-time equivalency enrollment average is 885 students.
That number is a three-year average based on enrollment counts which include the third Friday count in September and summer school enrollment.
In 2010, that average was 958. It was 934 in 2011 and 909 a year ago.
Bleck said the district’s valuation increased 0.69 percent, and Storch said while legislation signed by the governor on Oct. 20 results in $100 million in property tax relief over the next two years, the amount of state aid the district will receive still decreased.
In the 2013-14 school year, the W-F district will see a $109,000 reduction in state aid from the prior school year.
The 2013-14 levy was approved by a vote of 12-3 during the annual meeting.
However, first district resident Reuben Larsen made a motion to adjust the tax levy to zero.
Storch said doing so would reduce the district’s revenue by $5 million.
“We would barely have enough money to get through the year. We would have to do short-term borrowing. We would not be able to self fund our insurance,” he said.
Larsen’s motion failed after he and Shaun Gates were the only two voting in favor of it.