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Germantown, Falls school district levies come in lower than expected

Boards finalize plans for 2013-14 after state increases general aid

Oct. 29, 2013

The Germantown and Menomonee Falls school boards on Monday approved lower levies, in part due to unanticipated general state aid dollars.

At its meeting Monday, the Germantown School Board passed a $28.19 million tax levy, a 4.4 percent reduction from the previous year.

The tax rate is decreasing by nearly 50 cents, or 4.5 percent on an equalized basis compared with last year. The rate is going from $10.31 per $1,000 of assessed value to $9.84 per $1,000 of assessed value for 2013-14, according to Germantown School District documents. That equates to between $100 and $110 on a tax bill, Business Director Ric Ericksen said.

This was a positive budget year for Germantown. Recently, the district received an additional $1.06 million more in general state aid. Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature in October, through Act 46, allocated an additional $40 million in general school aid for the current school year to the 424 districts throughout the state in order to provide property tax relief. General aid and property taxes are directly related. As one goes up, the other goes down and vice versa.

Overall, general aid increased by 10 percent, according to DPI figures. The district received a total of $12.15 million in general state aid to support a $42 million 2013-14 operating budget.

Though it was a positive budget year, Superintendent Jeff Holmes cautioned that it may not stay that way.

"We may not have the same good news next year. There are numerous factors that are involved in determining that (budget) number and the district does not control the majority of those factors," Holmes said. "In these challenging economic times, Germantown School District has not only been able to maintain, but is improving upon, student achievement within our district."

Falls overall aid is down

Menomonee Falls received an extra $148,000 in general state aid as a result of Act 46. However, overall, aid decreased by 13 percent, or $1.1 million, because of where the district sits in the funding formula. Menomonee Falls received $7.2 million in aid for the 2013-14 school year.

On Monday, the Falls School Board approved a $39 million tax levy, an increase of 1.9 percent compared with last year. The levy was projected to increase 2.2 percent at the annual meeting. However, that percentage was lowered after the district received the unanticipated general aid dollars. This allowed the district to decrease the levy by $116,000 as a result, Falls Business Director Jeff Gross said. The district's total budget for all funds is $57.34 million.

The tax rate is unchanged from what was presented at the annual meeting because the equalized property value, certified by the Department of Revenue, came in lower than anticipated. It was down by 2.85 percent. The tax rate is up 60 cents. It remains at $12.35 per $1,000 of assessed value, compared with $11.78 per $1,000 of assessed value for 2012-13.

"Even though we had more state aid, our property value came in a little bit lower than what we predicted so the effect on the rate is no change," Gross said.

Though more general aid was made available for districts, the entire revenue package did not change and the district was not actually given more money to use for operations. The additional dollars were dollars to the state aid formula, which decreases the levy. They were not allocated to the revenue limit formula.

"Revenues stayed the same, but the state aid portion increased so that pushed the tax levy down from what we had expected at the annual meeting," Gross said.

Menomonee Falls is considered property rich and as a result receives less general aid than surrounding districts such as Germantown — $7.2 million vs. $12 million, respectively.

Falls has been forced to work with a smaller pool of revenue, even though local property taxes are increasing because state aid has been cut for the last few years.

In 2013-14, district spending was reduced by 0.13 percent, which is a result of changes the district has made over the years including a switch to self-funded insurance, reduced pupil transportation costs, reduced special education out-of-district placements and an efficient use of staff.



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