W-F School Board reviews finances
District’s tax base at $606 million
By Angie Landsverk
Members of the Weyauwega-Fremont School Board got an up-close look at the district’s financial situation during this month’s Committee of the Whole meeting.
Brian Brewer, a managing director at Robert W. Baird & Co., presented an overview to the school board about state funding and referendums when the board met on Feb. 8.
Brewer is working with District Administrator Scott Bleck and Business Manager Drew Niehans as the district gets closer to making a decision about a possible remodeling project at the high school.
Renderings are expected to be presented to the board in March.
After the board receives the information, it has to decide if it wants a referendum on next November’s ballot.
Since making its last debt payment in 2009, the W-F School District has been debt free.
Brewer told the board the district’s current debt capacity is $61.45 million.
The capacity is based on 10 percent of the district’s 2015 equalized valuation, which is $614.54 million.
That figure includes Tax Incremental Financing districts.
He showed the board trends related to the district’s equalized valuation.
These figures do not include TIF districts.
In 2000, the district’s equalized valuation was $356 million.
It grew annually to a high of $625 million in 2009.
Like other school districts, Weyauwega-Fremont saw its equalized value decrease when the recession hit.
“In recent years, there’s been new growth but at a slower pace,” Brewer said.
The most recent figure was $606 million.
The district’s 15-year annual growth rate was 3.61 percent.
Brewer also explained to the board that the revenue limit makes up 88 percent of the district’s 2015-16 general fund operating revenue.
Established in 1993, the goal of revenue limits was to create levy controls for school districts in the state, he said.
A school district’s enrollment affects it.
A three-year rolling average is used in the calculation, and the district’s average was 1,094 in the 2000-01 school year.
It remained flat until the 2005-06 school year.
That is when enrollment began to decline.
The district’s current three-year rolling average is 860 students.
Brewer said that translates into a decline in the district’s revenue limit.
The W-F School District is spending $9,095 per student, compared to the actual cost of $9,400 per student, he said.
With no debt, the district’s tax levy decreased several years before trending up, following a decrease in state aid.
Brewer showed the board how the district’s present mill rate of $8.32 compares to neighboring districts as well as the state.
The statewide average is $10.25, he said, and Weyauwega-Fremont’s current rate is lower than a number of area districts, as well as school districts in the Fox Cities.
Brewer said the W-F School District has done an “exceptional job” of operating under reduced revenue limits while continuing to build fund reserves.
He noted how this year, the district plans to use a portion of those set aside funds to pay for an HVAC project at Weyauwega Elementary School.
Brewer also outlined how school districts may ask voters to increase a tax levy to issue debt for construction or large facility projects or to increase its revenue limit authority above its annual revenue limit.
In Wisconsin, this year will be among the higher years in regard to the number of school districts seeking referendums, he said.
Since 1997, the W-F School District ran five referendum questions to issue debt and three related to exceeding revenue limits or nonrecurring expenses.
Only the most recent one, which was on the ballot in April 2000, passed.
That question asked for $1.35 million for nonrecurring expenses.
With current interest rates still at or near historic lows, that helps minimize the total cost of projects being sought today, Brewer said.