School tax could help fund youth programs
By Robert Cloud
The city of Waupaca hopes to partner with the Waupaca School District to collect taxes for parks and rec.
City Parks and Recreation Director Aaron Jenson spoke to the Waupaca School Board’s Finance Committee Monday, July 24.
He asked the school district to consider establishing a Fund 80 tax levy to replace the city’s current Youth Program agreements with three neighboring towns.
Jenson said the city is concerned about the equity and stability of its funding agreements with the towns.
Farmington, Dayton and Waupaca make annual payments to the city that allow their town residents to pay the same fees as city residents to participate in recreational programs.
City residents, whose property taxes pay for parks and rec, and residents of towns with agreements, pay fees ranging from $15 to $43 per program per child.
Fees for non-residents currently average $198 per program per child, Jenson said.
The fees increased by nearly $100 in 2016, which Jenson said was part of the reason participation in some programs dropped by 58 percent.
“We’re pricing out a large number of youth in the Waupaca School District with prices rising each year,” Jenson said.
Started in 1996, the funding agreements between the city and towns are based on population.
Initially, the towns covered nearly 20 percent of the total cost of the city’s recreational programs.
Over the past decade, the city’s park and rec costs rose, but the per capita amount the towns paid remained about the same.
The towns’ portion of total parks and rec costs dropped to below 15 percent.
Of the more than 2,000 participants in the city’s youth programs, about 35 percent are city residents and 65 percent are residents of nearby towns.
In 2016, Jenson met with the town boards and negotiated their agreements to gradually increase the amount they paid.
Dayton and Waupaca entered into three-year agreements, but Farmington approved a one-year agreement.
In 2017, Dayton paid $42,347 as part of its Youth Program Agreement, Farmington paid $61,578, and the town of Waupaca paid $18,263.
“If one town pulls out, it excludes one group of kids and means the city has to offer less programs,” Jenson said.
Under a Fund 80 community services tax, the Waupaca School District would levy a property tax to help support the city’s parks and rec.
In addition to youth-related programs, state law allows Fund 80 revenues to support adult education, community recreation programs such as swimming pool operation and softball leagues, elderly food service programs, non-special education preschool and daycare services.
People of all ages would pay the city-resident fees to participate in parks and rec programs.
Fund 80 would be levied separately from the school district’s Fund 10, which covers general education expenses.
However, when property owners examined their tax bills, they would only see a single tax levy for the school district.
“If everything stayed flat, the district would be taxing more,” said Carl Hayek, the school district’s business manager.
If the district levied a Fund 80 tax, an estimated 1,130 households would be added to the tax base to help support city recreational programs.
The Fund 80 tax would be levied on those portions of the towns of Lind, St. Lawrence, Lanark, Royalton and Scandinavia that are within the Waupaca School District.
For example, residents in the western half of Lind would pay the Fund 80 tax because they live in the Waupaca School District, but residents in Lind’s eastern half would not pay it because they live in the Weyauwega-Fremont School District.
City of Waupaca residents would still be paying city property taxes that support parks and rec, as well as paying a Fund 80 tax levied by the school district.
The city seeks to collect $195,000 in Fund 80 revenues to help subsidize its nearly $1 million budget for parks and rec.
Taxpayers in the three towns with agreements would actually see their contributions to the city decrease slightly.
Farmington’s contribution would drop from a projected $76,491 under a Youth Program Agreement to $62,771 under a Fund 80 levy, Dayton’s would drop from $52,603 to $51,794 and Waupaca’s would drop from $22,686 to $11,907.
“The city is not going to gain from this. We’re just asking for it to be fair for everybody,” Mayor Brian Smith said.
Details of how the district and city would work together under a Fund 80 arrangement would need to be negotiated.
School board member Dmitri Martin asked if there could be a referendum on Fund 80.
“It’s not a referendum item, but it could go up for an advisory referendum,” school board member Sandy Robinson replied.