Janesville School Board gets final look at budget

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Monday, October 23, 2017

JANESVILLE—Unless the Janesville School Board makes unexpected changes to its budget, school-related taxes will go down next year.

A draft budget presented the second week of October would result in school-related taxes of $866 on a home with an equalized value of $100,000. Last year, school taxes on the same home were $963.

When asked about changes since the first meeting, Janesville School District Chief Financial Officer Keith Pennington said the proposed budget numbers “will change slightly but not in a material amount.”

The district's projected expenses for this school year will be about $127.6 million, up about $8 million from last year. The majority of the additional expenses were energy improvement upgrades.

School board members were pleased with the budget for a variety of reasons.

Board member Michelle Haworth said she appreciated the way the budget was constructed.

“I’m pleased with the concept of a zero-based budget,” Haworth said.

Instead of thinking, “We have this big pot of money, how do we spend it?” the budget was built from the bottom up, with needs coming first, she said.

Next, the district looked at what it needed to do to support the “promises,” Haworth said.

The Janesville School Board recently approved a set of five-year goals. Instead of goals, the board is calling them “promises” to emphasize the board’s and the district’s commitment to them.

Promises include academic goals such as having 90 percent of students successfully complete ninth-grade algebra, making sure all students have post-high school career paths mapped and significantly increasing the number of students graduating with dual-enrollment credits.

A dual enrollment credit counts toward both high school and college or technical college graduation.

Board Secretary Steve Huth said he is happy the amount of school-related taxes will go down an average of $93 on a home valued at $100,000.

Huth also is glad the school district was able to use Act 32 funds before they disappeared.

Act 32 was the state law that allowed schools to raise taxes beyond state-imposed revenue caps to pay for safety and energy-efficiency improvements.

Revenue caps limit the amount of money a district can raise through its tax levy. If more money is needed, the district must go to referendum to ask voters for permission to exceed the caps. Act 32 makes it possible to bypass a referendum to complete specific types of projects.

In the Janesville School District's case, Act 32 was used to improve replace aging boilers in several schools.

The boiler in Washington School had been there since the school was built in the 1930s, Huth said.

In September, Gov. Scott Walker used his line-item veto to eliminate Act 32’s benefits.

On Tuesday, the board will get a look at any budget changes, and the public hearing on the budget is scheduled for the meeting.

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