Milton School board approves 4.3 percent tax levy increase

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Neil Johnson
Tuesday, October 29, 2013

MILTON—The Milton School Board on Monday approved a budget with a levy and a tax rate that is higher than was initially estimated at the district's September annual meeting, along with increases in spending the district plans to bankroll with a projected budget surplus.

The board unanimously approved a budget with a $13.7 million tax levy—a 4.3 percent increase from last year, according to a district budget memo released by Business Services director Mary Ellen Van Valin.

The levy is higher than the 3.3 percent levy increase voters approved at the annual meeting, as is the 5.8 percent tax rate bump approved Monday, according to the district budget review.

At the annual meeting, district voters had approved a 2.6 percent tax rate increase. 

The earlier tax rate and levy proposals were based on district projections for student enrollment and budgeted estimates for state general equalized aid for students and property valuations.

School districts typically do not receive state certification for equalized aid and property valuations from the state Department of Revenue until October or later.     

Student enrollment climbed by seven students over earlier district estimates, which increased the district's maximum revenue limit—the budgeted amount used in a formula to calculate state aid.

At the same time, the district learned last week its property valuations have decreased an average of 1.5 percent from last year instead of the .5 percent increase it had estimated at the annual meeting, according to the district budget review.

Along with that news came the state's certification of the school's equalized aid: The district will receive about $110,000 less in state equalized aid than it previously estimated.

Van Valin said the difference comes in part from a provision in a state tax relief bill signed recently that includes an exemption for new students who enrolled in the district last year.    

The district's final budget figures weren't available publicly until Monday because the district did not receive final state aid figures in time for publication Friday, Van Valin said.

In order to hold the line on current spending plans and to avoid “under-levying,” the board approved a budget that taxes the maximum allowed by state-imposed levy limits, a practice known as “taxing to the max.”

The board also approved a budget plan to draw off a $213,000 projected district surplus to pay for extra computer contractor services, a new food service computer system and a part-time music therapist along with increased staffing for the district's special education program, according to the budget review.       

The expenses draw the surplus down to about $108,000, according to the budget review.

In tandem, the district added into its revenue a $100,000 insurance payout on a claim for the high school gymnasium floor, which was flooded and had to be replaced when a pool chemical mixing tank at the high school overflowed in August.

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